Delaware Water Gap – Just an hour outside of NYC

I’ve been living in the NYC/NJ area for about 6 months now (wow, has it been that long?).  I still feel really new and am just getting familiar with the area.  One of the best discoveries so far is learning how quickly you can get to pure nature outside of the city.

Just under an hour  you’re in the mountains and on the Appalachian trail.

A few weekends ago Iain and I, and our friends Chris and Kim drove out to hike the Sunfish Pond route.

About 5 miles roundtrip and pretty steep in some places.  But, that glacial pond is worth it!

Kim & puppies took a swim.

Me & Chris taking a break

Sunflowers!It was still pretty hot when we were there.  I can’t wait to go back in the fall, with the crisp air and leaves turning.  I’m also looking for places to go Apple Picking in the area.  Any suggestions?

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Special Anniversary Dinner (aka random stuff I found in the kitchen)

Today, the hubby and I celebrated 2 years of marriage.  Love you, Iain.  Here’s to many many happy years.

Us two years ago today:

To celebrate, I was planning on making these.  But, after having a long day at work, I had to come up with something pretty quickly when I was walking home.  I thought about Betsy Life’s current Pantry Challenge and thought that I have some pretty good stuff to work with, I’ll just figure something out when I get home.  And it turned out pretty great.  Good thing, because we have enough leftovers for the next 3 days!

Cheezy Orzo with fresh herbs

Recipe at the bottom of the page.

But, the real winner was dessert.  Gwyneth Paltrow’s Brownies topped with Chocolate Chip Banana Softserve.

And it was goooooood.  I mean, it was no White Chocolate Raspberry Wedding Cake.

But it was fast and Vegan – Vegan – Vegan.  (Don’t tell Iain).

Scroll down even further for the recipe.

Cheers!

Cheezy Orzo

  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 2 cups uncooked Orzo (one small box)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 oz vegan cheddar
  • Can of whatever beans you have in the pantry (kidney beans for us)
  • 2 cups of whatever frozen veggies (lima & green beans)
  • Handful of fresh herbs (parsley and basil)
  • Vegan mozzarella

In a large crockpot, heat the olive oil on medium high and stir in the garlic.  Cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add the orzo and tomato paste and cook another 2-3 minutes.  Add the broth and white wine.  Bring to a boil then reduce to low.  Cover and let simmer 10-15 minutes.  Stir every few minutes to ensure orzo isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pot.

Once most of the liquid is absorbed, grate cheddar and stir in.  Add in frozen veggies and beans.  Stir until veggies are heated through.  Toss in herbs.

Dish it up, and top with a bit of shaved Vegan Mozzarella.

Chocolate-Chip Banana Soft Serve

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 2 Tablespoons almond milk
  • 1/2 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 Tablespoons Trader Joe’s Chocolate chips

Chop frozen banana into medium chunks and put in a food processor.

Blend until soft serve consistency.  Add in milk, syrup and extract.  Blend.

Toss in Chocolate chips and process until blended.

Spoon on top of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Delicious Fudgy Chocolate Brownies.



Recipe Review: Gwyneth’s Brownies

I admit it, I LOVE Gwyneth Paltrow.  It’s a deep love that began my Sophomore year of college when I saw “Sliding Doors” and decided 3 things:

  1. I should cut my hair short.  (Thank you to my college roomie for changing my mind on that one)
  2. I should study abroad in the UK
  3. I LOVE Gwyneth Paltrow

And I truly believe we could be the best of friends.  I mean, we may have chosen different career paths. But, she has an English husband, I have an English husband (thanks to that year abroad).  Think of all the hilarious conversations.

Natalie: Hey Gwyneth, does Chris say that someone is “at hospital” instead of “in the hospital”?

Gwyneth: He does!!

Then we’ll laugh and laugh and then go grab some coffee, or maybe she’ll make me some Vegetable Paella from her book, or we’ll go watch ‘Shakespeare in Love’ in her private cinema or something.  Whatever, we’re relaxed, no agenda, just hanging out.

But seriously, the girl can cook.

I got a copy of My Father’s Daughter: Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family & Togetherness for my birthday in July and have been slowly and deliciously making my way through it since.   Yesterday, as Hurricane Irene shuffled up to NYC/NJ and we were confined indoors, I found time to make her “Fudgy Chocolate Brownies”, which happen to be vegan.

The verdict.  Delicious moist, chocolate-y brownies.  As Gwyneth says “These are about as healthy as brownies can get, with no flavor sacrifice”.

And I’ll say it a thousand times, the best part of vegan baking, getting to eat the batter!

I made a few substitutions, based on what I had on hand.  (Wouldn’t you know it, I was clean out of spelt flour).  I’m not sure on the copyright laws on publishing her recipe.  But, the below is my adaptation.

Gwyneth’s Fudgy Chocolate Brownies

Adapted From My Father’s Daughter

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup almond meal flour
  • 1 cup high-quality cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
  • Pinch fine salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup Maple Syrup
  • 1/2 cup brown rice syrup
  • 1/2 cup strong brewed coffee
  • 1/2 cup soy milk
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup Trader Joe’s Chocolate Chips (vegan)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.  Grease a 9×11 inch baking dish with Vegetable Oil.
  2. Sift the flours, cocoa, baking powder, and salt together in a large mixing bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the 1/2 cup vegetable oil, syrups, coffee, soy milk, and vanilla.
  4. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Careful not to overmix.
  5. Pour 1/2 the batter into the baking dish.  Sprinkle with 1/2 the chocolate chips.
  6. Pour the rest of the batter into the baking dish.  Sprinkle with the rest of the chocolate chips.
  7. Bake for 50 minutes.  Until a toothpick or knife has just a little bit of chocolate on it when you test it.
  8. Cool and cut into squares.

Hurricanes in a Hurricane

Hurricanes with homemade Cherry Syrup

Does this say “Hurricane” to you?

How about this?

Well, it’s 6pm and Hurricane Irene is starting to make herself known here in the NYC/NJ area.  And we expect to be hardest hit between midnight and 2pm tomorrow .  Now, just a bit of rain and slight wind.  The biggest indicator of what’s to come is the eerie quiet on the streets and the stacks of sandbags piled up at all the ground floor / garden apartments.  Iain and I are tucked away inside and I took it upon myself to cook and bake like we won’t be leaving for months!

But, the best thing I’ve made so far, this variation on Pat O’briens’ in New Orleans Hurricanes.  Appropriate, no?  The typical Hurricane calls for Passion Fruit Syrup.  But, I had a bunch of cherries on hand and thought I’d swap it with a homemade cherry syrup instead.  It’s easier than you think.  Even if a Hurricane isn’t pointed directly at you, I recommend this refreshing drink.

Hurricanes with homemade Cherry Syrup

  • 1 oz orange juice
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1 oz Cherry Syrup (recipe below)
  • 2 oz Rum
  • Ice
  1. Place all liquid in a cocktail shaker.
  2. Fill shaker with ice.
  3. Shake baby shake.
  4. Pour into a glass and batter down the hatches!

(Iain approved – yes I made him go stand on the deck in the rain for this picture) 

Homemade Cherry Syrup

  • 1 1/2 cups cherries, pitted
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 Tablespoons sugar
  1. Place pitted cherries in a food processor and pulse until liquid and all skin is integrated.
  2. Pour liquid cherries into a heavy pot on the stove and add water and sugar.
  3. Bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce to “medium” and stir continuously for 10 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and let come to room temperature.  Use immediately or cover and store in fridge for up to a week.

Voila! You have just made homemade cherry syrup.  Perfect for Cherry Hurricanes or on top of pancakes.  Which I’ll make if we have power in the morning….

Staying healthy and safe during a hurricane – what to buy

I’m no stranger to hurricanes, since I grew up in South Carolina and lived in Florida for 4 years.  They are, pretty much, a Hallmark of late Summer / Fall.   But I definitely didn’t expect to be preparing for one in the NYC / NJ area.  No way.  I think Irene has caught us all by surprise.  And I’m mad because Hurricane Irene thwarted an Annual Girls weekend in Florida this weekend!! Not because she’s barreling down on Florida, because she’s barreling to NYC.  I still can’t get over that!

Nonetheless, we now know in the NYC area that a hurricane is on the way, scheduled to impact our area early Sunday, and we need to start to prepare.   Hurricane prepardness is no joke.  Plan for the worst, hope for the best.  This post assumes that electricity will go out, water will not be available and you’ll be home-bound for 1-3 days.  But, fingers crossed that this will be the worst anyone will suffer.

Stock up on non-perishables AND fill your freezer.  When power goes out, you want your freezer to be chock full of frozen goods so that it takes longer to thaw out.  So YES, this is your excuse to go to the store and PILE up on ice cream.

The hubby and I went shopping last night for some basic supplies (along with the rest of New Jersey). The goal was to stock up on healthy eating items.  Here’s what was on our list:

  • Water (obviously)
  • Bananas (fruit that will be ok at room temp)
  • Bread (tons to stuff in the freezer)
  • Crackers
  • Ice cream!  (We got several So Delicious pints)
  • Lara bars
  • Canned soups (ensure you have a manual can opener)
  • Canned rice
  • Canned beans
  • Almond milk (great because it won’t spoil at room temperature)
  • Candles & batteries (obviously)
  • Apples  (fruit that will be ok at room temp)
  • Pita Chips
  • Garbanzo beans ( I plan on making a big batch of hummus early Saturday)
  • Carrots
  • Green & Blacks Dark Chocolate
  • Board games & Playing cards!

And I most definitely plan on making “Hurricanes” Saturday night.  (come on over !) 

  • 2 lemons
  • 2 limes
  • 1 orange
  • Passion Fruit Syrup
  • Dark Rum
  • Maraschino Cherries

I’ll post the full recipe tomorrow as I make it.  Assuming we’ll have wi-fi!

One last thing.  Precautions to take at home:

  • Bring in patio furniture and outdoor plants
  • Remove A/C units from windows.  (don’t want these flying out!)
  • Fill up bathtub and pots with water for extra provisions.

Stay safe, people!!  And “Constant Vigilance”!  (my two favorite words from the Harry Potter series, appropriate in ANY situation, CV).

Restaurant Review: Maoz – Times Square

Blink and you’ll miss this little tiny storefront on the corner of 40th Street & 7th Avenue.  And you’d be missing a fast, delicious, CHEAP, vegetarian treat.

MAOZ

I stopped in here for lunch yesterday and it was tasty, as always.  There are only a few items on their menu (falafel sandwich, falafel salad, fries, drinks) but what they do, they do well.  Plus, the shop is so tiny, they wouldn’t be able to fit any other options in here.

Here’s how it works:

Step 1 – Order your meal at the counter.  (I always get the Falafel sandwich “Maoz” on whole wheat at $5.95, eggplant and hummus is extra $$) then step about 2 feet to the right and wait.

Step 2 – Maoz employee calls out the number on your receipt and and hands you your sandwich.

Step 3 – The salad bar is yours all yours.  Corn salad, Beet Salad, Tabouli, Chickpea Salad, Pickled Eggplant, Cabbage and on and on… stuff as much as you can into your sandwich.   Sidenote: I once saw a girl in Maoz get a salad and use both the salad container and LID to pile food on.  She must have had enough food for 2 days!  Not bad for less than $6!

Step 4 – Hand your sandwich over to the Maoz employee at the end of the line and they’ll wrap it up for you to take on your way.

Step 5 – Eat and try not to get it all over your clothes.  This is a tough task for me.

My masterpiece: (lots of Cabbage and Cilantro Sauce)

Maria’s Masterpiece:

The falafel is as good as I’ve ever tasted.  Hot, crunchy and the pita bread is soft and fresh with a lot of room for stuffing with their great salad bar options.   My dining companion was a little resistant to the “rabbit food” I was forcing her to eat for lunch.  But, she even enjoyed it and remarked that she’ll be going back there again.  And  I know I’ll be back pretty much every Wednesday.  (Wednesday is when I have my long runs.  So, I deserve a fried treat for lunch, don’t you think?)

If you’re not in the NYC – Times Square area, they have tons of other restaurants in the NYC area and around the world. Maoz Locations

Embarrassingly easy Vegan Tostadas with “refried” beans

Mmmmm Tostada…   (last night’s dinner)

A couple of questions for you:

  • Are you looking for a healthy, delicious and easy weeknight dinner?
  • Do you have a can of black beans, corn tortillas and some vegetables in your kitchen?

Then you need to try this out.  It’s husband approved.  (I had a good photo of Iain shoving one into his mouth but, he made me take it down- geez)

Embarrassingly easy Vegan Tostadas with “refried” beans

Serves 2

Total Time: 15 minutes

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

  • 4-5 Corn tortillas
  • Spray Oil
  • Refried beans (either a can of Amy’s or from recipe below)
  • 1/2 tomato, chopped
  • 2 handfuls of greens chopped (I had spinach)
  • 1/2 Avocado, chopped
  • 1/4 onion, chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons salsa
  • 2 ounces Vegan Cheddar Cheese (I wish I had used Daiya which melts much better than the brand I had on hand)
  1. Turn oven on to Broil
  2. Spray both sides of the Corn Tortillas, and cook each in a non-stick skillet until golden brown.  Then lay them out on a baking sheet.   

3.   Spread each tortilla with Vegan Refried Beans                                                             

4.  Top each tortilla with tomatoes, chopped greens, avocado, onion and cheese. (or whatever goodness you have on hand, I put some chicken sausage slices on the husband’s).  Slide baking sheet with tortillas into the oven and watch ( be careful to not let them burn) until the cheese is melty (3-5 minutes).

Top each with salsa and enjoy.  I know we did!

Vegan “Refried” Beans

  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1/4 white onion
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 Cloves Garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  1. Put all ingredients in a food processor.
                     2.  Pulse until a hummus (ish), refried beans-y consistency.

Cinnamon Banana Breakfast Scramble

Warning.  I am going to eat A LOT today.  9 mile run this morning and bikram yoga this evening, I know I need to fuel up.  This is one of my favorite ways to get a good start in the morning.  Gooey, banana-y, peanut butter-y, warm, crunchy, messy.  Delicious.

(And my husband’s finger)

Cinnamon Banana Breakfast Scramble

Adapted from The Edible Perspective

  • 1 Tablespoon Chia Seeds (I’ll need to write an ode to Chia seeds later)
  • 2 Tablespoons Oats
  • 2 Tablespoons Milk (I Used Almond Milk)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/2 Banana
  • 1 English Muffin
  • 1 Tablespoon Nut Butter
  • 1 Tablespoon Strawberry Jam
  1. In a small bowl, mix together the Chia seeds, oats, milk, vanilla extract, cinnamon and mash the banana.  Once the mixture is combined flip into a nonstick skillet and cook on that side for 3 minutes.
  2. While scramble is cooking, toast the English Muffin.
  3. After the 3 minutes, flip the scramble to the other side.  This may be a little messy.  And cook 3 minutes on the other side.
  4. Top one 1/2 of the English Muffin with peanut butter and the other 1/2 with jam and then add the Banana scramble.
Mmmmm.  Good morning to you!!

Chocolate Covered Cherry Green Monster

I woke up this morning “NEEDING” some fruit and vegetables.  ASAP.  A Green Monster was calling my name.

It may have had something to do with eating an entire loaf of focaccia last night in lieu of dinner.   That wasn’t my intention, I just stopped by a local market to pick up the loaf on the way home, and before I knew it; GONE.  But, delicious.  I blame it on the 12 mile run + 4 mile hike I had done the day before.  My body apparently still needed to replenish some carbs.

Anyways, on to the Green Monster.   Thanks to Angela , I LOVE Green Monsters.  Healthy, delicious and easy.  And my friend, Heidi, swears these smoothies result in an immediate improvement in skin tone. What could be better?  Well, the color could be improved.  Green / black smoothies don’t appeal to everyone. 🙂

Chocolate Covered Cherry Green Monster (Vegan)

  • 1 cup pitted cherries – highly recommend getting yourself a cherry pitter
  • 1 frozen banana chopped
  • 1 cup Almond Milk
  • 2 Big Handfuls of Spinach
  • 2 teaspoons Cocoa Powder (unsweetened)
  • 1 Scoop Amazing Grass Amazing Meal
  • 1 teaspoon Agave Nectar
  • 1 Tablespoons Chocolate Chips (vegan)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1 – Toss all ingredients in a blender (don’t get weirded out by seeing the Chocolate Chips & Spinach hanging out together)

2- Blend

3 – Pour into a glass and drink your veggies!

Saturday at the Farmers Market – Union Square Greenmarket

One of my favorite things to do on a Saturday in New York City is wander through the farmers market / Greenmarket at Union Square.  I recommend doing this after a filling NYC brunch so that you don’t buy everything in sight.

Here are some photos from this week’s trip after running Summer Streets.   I didn’t take many photos because my arms were filled with Farmers Market treats  (I just ran 9 miles! I was hungry!!) and I couldn’t manage the camera. Maybe next time I’ll go and just take pictures without shopping.

Who am I kidding, that will never happen…

Enjoy the pics!

I can’t wait for these trees to start coloring for fall.

Scored this pot of basil for $2.00!  

So many carrots!  I had never heard of ‘White Carrots’ & ‘Rainbow Carrots’ before.

Peter Piper Picked a pack of Purple Peppers?

Garlic Heads.

Fresh Pasta.

Beets.  So fresh and beautiful! I couldn’t resist buying these and will attempt to pickle them this week.

Local Pride.

Peaches!