Archive for May, 2011


I’m not sure if I just made up the term “convenience foods”, but you know what I’m talking about – meals out of a can, jar, or box. All the stuff my mother never allowed me to eat, which convinced me that Chef Boyardee Spaghetti-O’s must be some sort of delicious manna, if only because it was prohibited. When I first tried Chef Boyardee sometime in my early twenties – it reiterated a lesson I’d learned many times over: that when my mother enforced certain rules, it was not an arbitrary attempt to limit the joy and pleasure in my life, but because she actually knew what she was talking about.

Don't let the smile fool you. This "food" is all at once mushy, spongy, and chock-full of sodium, while still being oddly flavorless.

Hence, I have always avoided convenience foods as much as I can. However, now, in my middle-thirties, I find myself reaching for convenience foods more and more frequently. Which includes takeout – like the grilled chicken sandwich and smoothie place next door to my doggie day care. When I’m picking up my dog at 8PM and starving, the convenience of yet another grilled chicken or grilled veggie sandwich, or, occasionally, even a hamburger, is too appealing to pass up. Once I’m there, it’s so easy to also order a ginormous 20 oz fruit smoothie, or, perhaps, some waffle fries fresh out of the fryer. Unfortunately, too often, convenient = unhealthy.

As an alternative, I’ve tried stocking my freezer with some supposedly healthy frozen dinners. You know, those diet ones – weight watchers, smartones, and the like. But if you look at the ingredients and nutritional value, there’s tons of weird preservatives and sodium hidden in there. Not to mention, not tasty. Amy’s can be pretty good sometimes; but I don’t think the enchiladas (which are my favorite) are all that healthy either, even if they are organic. There’s a lot of cheese in the best of Amy’s…

However, I have made a new find that I’m here to share with anyone who needs to ever rely on a quick dinner. No more than 10 minutes in the microwave…which is actually the recommended method of heating these dinners. KASHI has a line of frozen dinners! You know, Kashi, of the creative multigrain breakfast cereals. GoLean, GoLean Crunch!, etc. When I’m in the breakfast cereal mood, many of these help fill that craving. GoLean Crunch! even provides enough sweetness to satisfy a sugary cereal craving, and, I think, ok, once in awhile. But I digress, I’m here to talk about a different meal here….

So far, I’ve tried, Tuscan Veggie Bake, Black Bean Mango, and Mayan Harvest Bake, all of which are vegan options. Unlike typical frozen dinners, these are filled with a variety of textures and flavors, with the Black Bean Mango dinner having a delightful spicy bite to it. Each dish also has some sort of sort of multi-grain pasta, or a mix of grains, including exotic healthy grains like quinoa and herbs like amaranth. A quick skim of the ingredients is NOT like reading a chem-lab inventory, although there was the occasional “guar gum” or “ascorbic acid” listed in there. While those are not your typical kitchen pantry ingredients, I know exactly what they are and what they are for, and know enough to know that they aren’t necessarily unhealthy for me. Also – no artificial flavorings of any kind listed in ingredients. Kashi also makes some chicken dinner options – I tired a Lemongrass Coconut Chicken, which was also pretty tasty, spice and flavoring-wise. I am not a huge fan of the texture of chicken from frozen dinners and was hesitant to try any of the Kashi dinners with chicken in them. The Kashi chicken had some of the same problems I find in other frozen dinners, tasting a bit like it had been reconstituted or injected with chicken broth – generally not a very fresh texture. But the flavor was at least like actual chicken, which I cannot say for the other brands I’ve tried.

Please don't shoot me you fresh ingredient cooks out there - but these actually taste somewhat "fresh made" despite coming out of the freezer and zapped in the microwave!

The cost is about the same as Amy’s Organic meals, a bit pricier for frozen dinners at about $5 to $6 per meal, including tax. Not cheap, but not more expensive than takeout. And much more satisfying than the times I scrounge random food from my pantry, freezer, or fridge, and end up with something like a bowl of microwave heated petite peas for dinner.

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The Mission: The First Day

The first morning I could, I picked up my usual walking pace to work just so I can start my Mission.  It was a Friday and as Friday goes around Rockefeller Center, its infested with tourists for the Today Show.  The infestation had already spread into the bakery.  I walked in and was immediately annoyed at the clusters of aliens in the way of my pastries and their lack of appreciation for this no ordinary shop as they were just looking for some coffee and breakfast to sustain their energy for screaming at Al Roker when he came out to do the weather.

I tried hard to forget the annoyance as I got closer to the counter and it wasn’t so difficult after see the goods.  I spotted a few choices and as usual, I couldn’t decide.  But then I realized, I will be trying everything so it doesn’t matter! I chose the  raspberry almond croissant.

Almond Raspberry Croissant

It was everything I had expected from this place.  I was little concerned that the quality might be sacrificed given the heavy tourist location as I’ve witnessed this happen to another famous bakery in the local area.  The croissant was flaky but not the flakiest I’ve had.  It did not have that overpowering buttery taste to it but I think because it was distracted by the fresh raspberry jam in between.  This jam (or preserve?) was really my most favorite part about this croissant.  I don’t think I ever had a jam filled croissant before but darn, I really loved it!  The jam was seeded and there was the perfect amount, not too globby, not too skimpy.  I especially loved how it was spread evenly across the entire croissant so that a taste of raspberry was enjoyed in each bite.

lovely spread of jam

The cost was $4.08 with tax.

It was a slow day at work and I started craving a good snack mid afternoon.  So I decided to go for my second run of the day. I knew I wanted a macaron but wasn’t sure which.  Banana Hazelnut, hmm I don’t think I’ve ever seen that combo before!

Supersized Banana Hazelnut

Now it should be noted that Keller’s macarons are not your typical two inchers.  They are probably close to four inches.  In the past, I found that larger macarons although more to favor, was not as delicate as the normal sized ones.  I didn’t know what to expect here but I was pleasantly pleased by the delicacy of this macaron despite its size.  As you have learned from my previous post, its all about the light and airy!! Keller did excellent here.  I have to say, I don’t think I tasted a lot of hazelnut or banana in my first two bites.  I thought flavoring was on the weaker side, but on my third bite, a burst of banana flavor came through.  There was actually a piece of banana thoughtfully wedged inside the middle of the macarons.  Was this why it needed to be four inches?  I was very pleased by this surprise and probably made up for the lack of hazelnut presence.  Although, I think if the flavorings were more powerful, it could’ve made this treat too cloyingly sweet.  In the end, it was a great balance of the flavors with the airy macaron.  Cost:  $4.38 with tax.

My barre bee fit addiction

Barre Bee Fit is the exercise studio to which I have become addicted and now has its own blog! Check it out here. I started classes in late 2010 and have gone pretty regularly, at least two or three times a week, except for weeks that I’ve been traveling. Or when I’ve decided I’d rather work 15 hour days. But that’s another story. The workout is a muscle-intensive 60 minutes where you work out each of the major muscle groups, burning the tiniest muscles to fatigue, interspersed with quick cardio-blasts to keep your heart rate up throughout. The blasts are only for 60 seconds, so it doesn’t get overwhelming. Also interspersed throughout are intervals of intense stretching. The switching between muscle work, cardio, and stretching, keeps things interesting, and makes the hour-long work out go fast! It also helps that the instructors are amazing and friendly and encouraging. I’m actually quite inspired by the founders and co-owners, who both started this new business while working full time day jobs. But now, in less than a year (I think they first opened in the summer of 2010), they are successful enough so that they can quit their day jobs. Inspiring.

Anyway, if I ate better and did more cardio on my own, I’m sure I’d have much better results. As it is, even though I haven’t lost a single ounce of weight, I’ve actually gone down two sizes since I started. Crazy, right? I can actually feel, and almost see, the new muscle tone under the soft parts. And by parts, I mean every inch of my curvy womanly body. I may never have a bikini-ready body, but the progress I’ve made keeps me motivated to keep going. And I keep promising myself, I’m going to expand my healthy choices to my eating habits soon, too.

Now, you may have heard of the Bar Method, which is the most commonly known brand name for this style of workout. And, I have to admit, that for the next month, I’m cheating on my Barre Bee teachers with a month-long membership at Bar Method. The thing is, Bar Method enticed me with a Gilt City certificate, through which I found out that they have a location a block and a half from my office (which means it’s five and a half blocks from my apartment). Too convenient. So, I’m taking advantage of their new student special for a one month unlimited pass. At the end, I plan to go back to BBF – definitely! Bar Method falls short in that it doesn’t actually include cardio in its workouts and also doesn’t provide the same intensive stretching. Also, it lacks the friendliness of BBF and on a normal basis is practically twice the cost of BBF! If I ever left Chicago, I would very sad to have to give up BBF. So, unless they expand to another city that I would think about moving to, I might just have to stay put here in Chicago…!

The Mission

I’ve been waiting since July 2010.  To be exact, that is 11 months of WAITING.  Excitement and anticipation turned into agony and frustration, which turned into excitement again as soon as the boarded entrance came down and Rockefeller Center Facebook and Twitter accounts were created (of course, I immediately subscribed).  Even then, it took another month of patience until the doors officially opened.  It was the new Bouchon Bakery in my work building.  Why do I care so much?  At first, it was the simple idea of being able to conveniently indulge in Keller’s famous pastries without trekking to Columbus Circle or Napa.   But the long wait slowly turned into an obsession for having  a fresh baked flaky croissant or a macaron or a Bouchon Ho-Ho at any given minute during my work hours.  Its like the very long wait at a hip restaurant and when you are finally seated, you are so hungry that everything you order is so delicious that you go home, give a raving Yelp review or tell all your friends you must dine at this place even though you must starve for an hour plus before being seated.  Yea…. or maybe I just really needed something exciting at work to look forward to.

So now that the bakery is open and to keep the excitement going, I have a personal mission to try everything available at this bakery.  This will definitely result in a lot of unnecessary cash and calories but heck, you only live once.  Hope you will enjoy sharing my indulgence (at least visually) with me.

What took you so long to open??

I am only a fashionista in my private fantasies, but I do check in on The Sartorialist regularly. He is able to capture some amazing real life street shots of regular people as well as fashion-types and their different style choices. I guess I do it in part that I might eventually absorb some of that fashion sense and develop a style of my own. A few months ago, he posted several photos of a particular color combination he saw throughout London. See the posts from February 22nd under the title “On the Street, London Color Story, London.” I have a dress that’s very close the blues he saw…and I began to consider the possibility that I could pull off pairing it with the golden yellow color, too:

From "The Sartorialist"

So, I got this great idea that I was going to find a pair of tights in golden yellow to wear with my royal blue dress. I’ve been thinking about it for months. Finally now, it’s dress and tights weather and just last week, I stopped at American Apparel to see of they had a tights in this crazy yellow. Of course, they did. And here is the result: golden yellow tights, royal blue jersey dress, topped with a light grey cotton linen cardigan (it is spring in Chicago after all – temperatures ranging from 75F to 55F in four hour span). Unfortunately, the lighting in this photo is bad, and you can’t quite see the vividness of the colors. But trust me, it was bright. To top off the look, I carried my turquoise bag! I took this look all over Chicago today, running errands and going to the spa – a spring day off! I’m fairly certain that this look got me some extra attention.

20110524-084336.jpg

What I learned from this experience was that a little fashion daring can be fun. There is something about wearing bright colors that puts an extra spring in your step and makes you feel a bit of sunshine your heart. You will have to see it someday in person to understand the full effect. So, judge me if you want, but it was fun!

Signs of a bad first date:
1- Feeling like I am talking to a coworker I am forced to have dinner with because we are traveling together on a business trip.
2 – Wondering how many drinks this guy is going to have before it’s time for him to drive me home.

Admittedly, I was lukewarm even about accepting this date, because it was my third meeting with this guy. First, we met for one drink and he seemed nice and normal. At the second meeting, which was for about an hour, over breakfast, I was pretty sure we didn’t have any chemistry, or any interests in common. But, he kept saying that he was getting over a cold that morning, and not his usual entertaining self. Now, I should have clued into the fact that if he felt he had to apologize for not being entertaining, something was not quite right – he was probably somewhat insecure and maybe overly nervous.

Anyway, after consulting with various people, I decided to give this one more chance. As an objective observer, I think the guy was relatively attractive, met basic intelligence levels, and we could maintain steady conversation. And given that I am completely inexperienced in the dating world, what did I know? Maybe it took several dates to figure out whether there was potential?

So, Saturday night dinner date: he was no longer getting over a cold, but conversation was still dull. I could complain about the inane things he said, but I realized at some point in the evening, that if this were a man I was attracted to, I would probably would have found the conversation more interesting. (Here, I will admit briefly, that I thought about the Boy and that I would be happy to talk about pretty much anything with him if he were here. But that is not the point of this.) Please don’t think that I behaved like one of those entitled women who simply expects the man to entertain her. I tried, too. And I have to say that part of the blame was mine. I could not get myself out of the box of the way I approach talking to new business associates – stick to safe topics, ask him factual questions, nothing too personal. After an hour and half at dinner, I was tired of how painful the effort was.

Maybe I could have given it more time, more effort, but the second point I listed above distracted me and put me on edge throughout the date. I am not used to driving around the city to go out for dinner. He said he’d pick me up. Fine. At dinner, he first ordered a high alcohol beer. Then had a second regular beer. After dinner, he was on the hunt for dessert, so we stopped at another bar. Where he proceeded to have another beer with dessert. (It was a recommended dark porter to go with the bread pudding we ordered. I am a big fan of bread pudding, and the bartender’s recommendation was quite a genius pairing. In fact, the bartender was also quite cute; I plan to go back to that bar.) He then suggested we go to a movie. At a theater where he could potentially order more drinks. I’m sure he was still below the legal limit. But is this normal behavior? I know there are plenty of people who, out of necessity because they live in areas where there isn’t public transportation or readily available taxi service, become more comfortable with driving after a few drinks. But why in the world did he even drive anyway? The place we went to was probably a $20 cab ride and there were plenty of cabs around the restaurant to grab to go home.

So, two hours into the date, I told him I’d better go home to walk my dog. I thanked him as he dropped me off and silently hoped he wouldn’t call. He hasn’t.

Breakfast: I’m loving it!

I am an devoted lover of breakfast foods, many of which are not good for me – pancakes, french toast, bacon, muffins, donuts, bagels, mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.  Just writing that sentence made me hungry.  I’m a sucker for anything baked that you can put butter or syrup on.  Although I adore eggs, I don’t have time to make them every morning and buying an egg sandwich every day is too expensive (and would take the thrill out of Egg Sandwich Friday, my weekly ritual!).  Cereal is my daily dinner option so I do not touch it for breakfast.  I’m so backwards!  I need something easy to eat, healthy and does not require much planning or thought.  Sorry, but I am always ten minutes behind schedule.  I don’t have time for elaborate or time consuming breakfast options.

As much as I wish I could embrace smarter options like yogurt and oatmeal and fruit, they don’t appeal to me.  Fruit alone is not filling enough and lacks protein.  Yogurt is icky – I’ve tried on and off over the years to eat more than one spoonful of yogurt in one sitting with no success.  Oatmeal just looks like gruel – another food I’ve tried to love over and over again but just can’t.  So, out of sheer laziness, I pick up a slice of reduced fat cinnamon swirl coffee cake from Starbucks with my toffee nut latte (now decaf!).  I know I know . . . more baked goods, but the words “reduced fat” tricks my mind into thinking I am getting something good for me.  It IS one of the items in the display case with the least calories.  This has been my almost daily routine for about 6 years now.  I want to break the habit but I am weak.

Fast forward to last Friday, when I was working at another client site in Brooklyn.  I had purchased a buttered wheat bagel from Dunkin Donuts (another item I’ve tricked myself into thinking is healthy – look it’s made of wheat!), when one of the client personnel said “Hey, we have oatmeal from McDonalds.  You have to have one it’s delicious.  There’s fruit in it too!”  Before I could protest, he left the room to fetch one for me and shoved it in my hands.  I’m supposed to be there fostering a positive working relationship, right?  How was I supposed to say no?  So I decided to take the oatmeal, at least give it one taste and try and sneak my bagel on the side.

But, you know what?  I LOVED IT.  I picked out the raisins and cranberries (wrinkled fruit just ain’t right, folks), kept in the bits of green apples and ate away!  There were yummy hints of maple and brown sugar, it was not super gloppy or wet, and the crunchy apple pieces were lovely.  I devoured every last oatmealy bite!

You are not wanted here raisins and cranberries! I banish you from my belly!

See the bottom of the cup is empty?  I ate it all!  But those damn raisins and cranberries just had to go.  I am so proud of McDonalds for really coming through with the healthy options.  Per the commercial, this breakfast is under 300 calories.  Perfectly paired with my medium iced decaf skim caramel latte!!!  Did I also mention I’m a sugar addict?  Haha!  I think i may actually walk a block out of my way to get this oatmeal for breakfast now.  Better than a coffee cake right? 🙂 Bada bah bah baaaah . . . !

Sunday Dinner: May 22, 2011

I know I said I was going to make my Sunday Dinner posts a regular thing, but sometimes what I make is not that noteworthy.  However, nyuchick persuaded me to get the ball rolling again.  I guess when you look at so many food blogs and see the complicated things that some folks come up with, you think the simple dishes are not worth sharing.  But today, I am feeling sentimental so I will share.

There are certain foods that just remind you of home, of family, and are comforting when feeling blue.  Hence, comfort foods.  For me, one of these comfort foods is something my family calls Spanish rice.  I take no responsibility for how authentic it may actually be, but its intentions were definitely good when this dish was created.

Where did this Spanish rice come from?  My mother told me that essentially my grandmother made it up.  She came to the US when she was 21 years old from Puerto Rico, where she lived a life with maids and housekeepers and people who cooked for her.  As she learned to cook here in the US as a wife and mother, she tried to replicate the dishes she loved from Puerto Rico, but she could not find the same ingredients so she improvised.  I swear I probably ate this dish hundreds of times growing up and every time it was my favorite. A dish of this rice and some pan fried pork chops was a weekly staple at home.  The combination of the mushy tomato-y rice and the bits of corn and the simple spices make it irresistible to me.  And yes, the mushier the rice the better.  My mother would call this a bad batch.  I would call it perfection.

Now that I’m a grown woman and married, I find myself craving Spanish rice more and more.  Part of me just misses my mom’s cooking.  Part of me likes to feel connected to my Hispanic heritage, since I will admit I do not know much about it (tis true, I am not 100% cannoli).  But a big part of me loves any and all things associated with my grandmother, who’s been gone almost 14 years now.  I literally have nothing but fond memories of her . . . her perfume, her nail polish, her smile, her love of trash mags and soap operas, her sayings, her house, her daily presence in my life every day after school when I was a little girl.  She left us so long ago and even now, one thought of her turns me into a blubbering mess as if it were yesterday.  I don’t feel this way about anyone or anything but her.  Maybe it’s because she developed Parkinson’s and we slowly watched her slip away.  I remember the look in her eyes when she could not speak anymore.  I remember reading my grandfather’s last letter to her aloud at the funeral home before it was slipped into her coffin.  When she was gone, I planned my wedding wishing she was there.  Even now, I find sometimes talking out loud as if she was right next to me.  I constantly wonder if she would approve of the choices I’ve made.  I just miss her.  If a dish of rice is going to keep her alive in some way, then I will make the rice.

So today I had the craving for Spanish rice, so I gave it a whirl, with some modifications of course.  As much as I would have loved to make it with white rice, we only have brown rice in our house now so that’s what I used.  It was close, but not exactly the same.  But good enough, for sure.

Grandma’s Spanish Rice

Ingredients:

Two cups rice (preferably white rice, I used brown rice)

Olive oil

Fresh garlic, chopped

2 cups frozen corn (I used the one that comes in the frozen block 10oz seems to be enough)

Tomato sauce (homemade preferable, but today I used two small cans of hunts tomato sauce since I did not have any sauce defrosted)

2 cups water

Salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste

Stuffed manzanilla olives (today I used a small jar, since my husband loves more olives)

Directions:

  • If using white rice, wash the rice in a strainer until the water runs clear.  If using brown rice, skip this step.
  • In a large pot, sautee the chopped garlic in olive oil over medium heat.  Do not burn the garlic!
  • Add rice to pot and stir to cover the grains with the oil in the pot.
  • Add the corn and tomato sauce and stir to combine.
  • Add the water and salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste.
  • If using white rice, cook at medium heat until it resembles a thick soup.  Lower gas to half, cover pot and cook for 15 minutes.  If too dry add more water.  Cook about 10 more minutes until done.
  • If using brown rice, bring to a boil, lower heat to low, cover pot and cook until done, about 30 – 40 minutes.

Instead of the usual pan fried pork chops, I looked on my cookbook shelf for something different and found a recipe from my new Lidia cookbook, Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy.

Lidia is awesome. I wish I could do what she does.

Here’s the recipe – the only thing I omitted was the butter and used boneless pork chops and whole wheat flour, but I did everything else exactly the same. Pork was cooked perfectly and the sauce was delicious, not too lemony and very flavorful.

Pork Chops with Capers

Ingredients:

6 bone-in pork loin chops, 1 inch thick, 6 to 8 ounces each

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 plump garlic cloves, crushed and peeled

1/2 cup all-purpose flour for dredging, plus more as needed

1 large lemon, sliced in thin rounds

6 whole Tuscan-style pickled peperoncini drained

3 tablespoons small capers, drained

3/4 cup white wine

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

Directions:

  • Trim the fat from the pork chops, if necessary, leaving only a thin layer, and salt them lightly on both sides, using 1/2 teaspoon salt in all.
  • Put the butter and olive oil in the skillet, and set it over medium-low heat. When the butter begins to bubble, scatter in the garlic; let it heat and gently sizzle. Meanwhile, spread the flour on a plate or tray and dredge the chops on all sides. Shake off excess flour, and lay the chops in the skillet in one layer. (It may appear at first that there’s not enough room for all, but as the meat shrinks you will be able to nestle the chops in.)
  • Strew the lemon slices on top of the chops, and drop the peperoncini in between them. Cook the chops slowly, keeping them at a a gentle sizzle, turning and moving them in the pan about every 5 minutes, as they take on color gradually and evenly.
  • After 20 minutes or so, when the pork is lightly browned and caramelized on both sides, scatter in the capers, shake the pan to drop them onto the bottom, and turn up the heat to medium-high. When the capers are sizzling, push the chops aside, and pour the wine and lemon juice into the clear hot spot. Bring to a boil, and shake the pan so the wine flows around all the chops. Sprinkle over pan the remaining salt, and adjust the heat to keep the pan juices bubbling, steadily reducing and thickening. Turn the chops occasionally, so both sides are moistened and evenly cooked.
  • After about 10 minutes of reducing the liquid, when the juices are syrupy and glaze the chops, remove the pan from the heat. Sprinkle the chopped parsley all over, and give the chops a final turn in the pan. Serve right away, drizzling a bit of the remaining pan sauce over each chop.
Here’s the finished product.  A little bit Italian, a little bit Spanish.  Somehow, exactly like me.

Italian pork chops and Spanish rice. Cause I'm just like that.

The Perfect Cover

I like it cold on the outside, warm and cozy on the inside…. sleeping temperature that is.  And lately, the warmer temperature has just left my down alternative comforter undesirable.  I avoid opening windows because the double decker Big Apple tour bus passes by every ten minutes and I don’t need to hear anymore about the UN nor do I need to ingest the dirty fumes from the bus.  In the summer, my apartment’s 30+ year old central air conditioning doesn’t quite cool but just keeps it not too hot.   I knew I had to get some alternative bedding before it gets any warmer and a quilt seemed like the perfect solution.

Is it just me or are most quilts on the stiff side?  That’s what I thought when I did some touching at conventional bedding places like Bed Bath, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, even checked out TJ Maxx.   Although I know its the  traditional type, but all those patchwork quilts makes me feel like I need to sleep in a log cabin with Abe Lincoln.  While the floral ones (usually pink) made me feel like I had to be 80 years old and wear perfume that smelled like roses ( no offense to those that do).

Cabin Lodge Mini Quilt Set from Overstock.com

So my wants are simple: soft, modern, vibrant colors but too girly, as requested by he who shares my bed, machine washable and ready for my bi-monthly washings.

I spent hours online, Garnet Hill, The Company Store, Layla Grayce, Overstock.com, but either the price, pattern, color, or inability to touch led to no winners.  Finally, one day I went West Elm for some touching and it sure was pleasant! West Elm, definitely has the softest quilts I’ve felt, especially their “Hand-Block” varieties and the Ruffled-Circle.  (Though the Bubbles Quilt, not so much.) However, I was skeptical of the quality, the threading looked like it will come loose after two washes, barely lasting me through the season.

Ruffled-Circle Quilt + Shams

Soft but not durable

I was ready to splurge on the questionable West Elm Ruffled-Circle pictured above when I decided to search “quilt” in Apartment Therapy and  I stumbled upon a post on New DwellStudio Bedding for Target. HELLO modern, vibrant colors! I quickly looked up this bedding on Target.com and it was on sale for $56 bucks with free shipping but was this going to be like sleeping under cardboard?  For less than $60 and free return, I thought it was worth checking it out.

Well, from the picture below, you can see the happy ending here.  Although not as soft as Ruffled-Circle, it is surprisingly decent to touch. Plus, I really love the design and colors!

Perfect Temperature!

Louisiana in Chinatown

This past Saturday was a perfect spring day:  sunny, my kind of optimal temperature, not too hot with a nice breeze, and full of POLLEN.  The allergies are striking me hard this year and the medicine did not help.  I didn’t let my dripping nose, incessant sneezing stop me from taking my bike out for the first ride of the year.  I am not the bright tights, hunched over, speeding through central park or through the very hilly the Hudson Valley kind of bicyclist.  I am more of the leisurely, meander through the city, looking for new city bike lanes, with a helmet that looks to be too small for my head, kind of a bicylist.

Now that you have the proper image of me, allergy stricken and on a bike in Manhattan, lets get to the objective of this post.  While meandering this past Saturday, I stumbled upon an unexpected truck nestled in Chinatown.  It was an unpainted truck, without any fancy logo plastered.  The truck had a fold out picnic section, attached to the truck and seated maximum of 8 guests.  The American flag was up and country rock was heard.  Parking our bikes and walking up closer, we find it was  Jen N Outlaw’s Fish Fry Truck.  The simple menu and the long lines screamed out, must stop for lunch!

The Simple Menu

Perhaps we were hungry but probably more so intrigued by the Louisiana in Chinatown that compelled us to order almost everything on the menu:

The Catfish Po Boy was a good heaping size.  The catfish was fried perfectly but I didn’t wholeheartedly love the bread.  I am not sure what kind of bread a tradition po-boy calls for, but I thought this sourdough like bun was too tough for the delicately crispy fried fish.  Plus, it was kind of hard to take a full bite!  Otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed the sandwich.

Catfish Po Boy

The Crawfish was a popular choice and we had to wait patiently for the next boil…

Mr. Paul Outlaw pouring steaming crawfish right out of the pot

I don’t think I ever had crawfish simply boiled and ready for picking, so I was very excited to try them.  Personally, I thought it was a lot of work for very little meat, but I guess it was fun picking and gnawing at them little suckers. My eating buddy who has had more experience with these tiny lobsters said they were one of the largest ones he ever had!  There was a generous amount of cayenne on the crawfish so those who can’t take the heat, be warned.

Crawfish or Crayfish or Crawdads or Mini Lobsters

And for sides, some fried pickles!

Hot from the fryer

We washed down our meal with some of their sweet teas.

This was my highlight for this past Saturday and I am so happy that allergies did not deter me.  Have some of your own crawfish, look for them on Twitter!