my stay-cation with emily

OK, so now that I’ve divulged my senior moment about losing my sunglasses, here are some highlights from my recent trip to Emily’s:

First, I arrived to the cleanest, freshest, calmest, most tranquil house I’ve ever entered, and there were even snacks and tea to welcome me!  Soft music was playing, candles were flickering and the lights were dimmed.  I mean, I guess bringing work home with you as a massage therapist may not be the worst thing in the world…  See it here.

A few shots of the new place (as fate would have it, Emily and her husband bought their first house the same day we bought ours’ here in New York!):







Just like Andrew and I, they’ve done a lot of updating their already move-in ready house.  They have plans for a new kitchen, soon.  I cannot wait to see what they pick!

After we spent a relaxing evening snacking, drinking wine, catching up and running some errands, we went off to bed WAY TOO LATE, yet woke up refreshed and ready for a workout.  I think that is one of my favorite things about Emily–she is as into working out as I am and is so creative with what she does.  She can get exercise out of anything, and we often make up our own ‘circuit training’ session at least once.  Saturday morning, after a leisurely breakfast with her husband, Dan, we bundled up and set out (extra sunglasses in hand for me) for Sugarcreek Metro Park, which seems to be a favorite location of ours.’  I’ve done 5ks here and we always seem to find ourselves there for a hike.



After our hike–in which I wore my new YakTrax (metal coil-like rope you attack to the bottoms of your shoes to help in snow and ice) and Emily wore her snow boots.  The YakTrax one, hands down.  I could have run the entire trail no problem, while poor Emily was reduced to slipping and sliding.  We even got lapped by some little Asian women armed with both the proper footwear and poles!

Speaking of Asian…we headed out for Thai food for lunch!  Thai is definitely my ‘go-to’ food of choice.  Thankfully Andrew likes it, too.

Emily was a good sport and agreed to try the green curry with me–it was HOT.  And we got a 1 on a scale of 1 to 5.  I introduced them to Thai iced tea, which is such a treat for me.


Next, Emily and I split off for some more shopping.  We found ourselves at Zebra Girl Boutique, which is owned by a friend of Emily’s, named Natasha.  It’s filled with fun accessories like jewelry, purses and scarves.  Natasha treated us like queens and I picked up some goodies and gifts. I swear, all I did was walk around the store and say (out loud), “That is so Carolyn” or “That is so Abigail.”  My sisters-in-law really like their bling.  And Carolyn has a thing for zebra stripes.  I may have picked up some goodies for them, too….


That night, we’d arranged to visit our friends, Jen and Dave, and their almost-one-year-old, Aiden.  Their house is across the street from our old neighborhood.  We packed up our slippers (we like to make ourselves at home there) and some belated Christmas presents.



Aiden may or may not have gotten ahold of my phone…


Emily, the consummate ‘planner’ of the group (she blows me out of the water, folks), got our dinner ordered–and she makes it look so easy.  Funny anecdote:  While on our hike that morning, we had to institute a no-planning-the-next-workout-until-we-finish-this-one rule!  We just can’t help ourselves.


We chose City BBQ–a favorite of mine–and got a small family pack.  We all fondly remembered the time we ate this same meal (plus Andrew), in this same living room, around a tablecloth-covered DOOR.  (I went and checked for the post–it was back in April–but no photos of door/table.  Sad.)


The happy momma and poppa wearing their new gifts 🙂



Remember I told you that Emily and I can come up with a circuit workout at the drop of a hat?  Well, we did just that on Sunday morning before church.  We drove to a local high school in hope of using their track, but found the gate locked and assumed it would be covered in snow, anyway, so we settled for the parking lot, instead.  We did laps around the cleared lot and alternated with calisthenics each time we rounded the car.  Thirty minutes later, we were bushed.

We all went to our church, Apex, and it was as if I’d never left.  I tell you what–I’ve never loved sermons like the ones I’ve heard here.  I’m definitely one of those ‘daydreamers/mind-wanderers’ in church (well, really, is there anywhere I go where I’m not already thinking of the next place/thing/to-do item?), but not at Apex.  Why can’t we find a church like that here (insert whiney voice)…:(



We sat with another friend from our Bible study group, Brett, who picked up his two girls after the service.  They were a little camera-shy, but I was able to catch a few shots:


Yet again, the girls broke off for some more shopping (we kidnapped Jen!) and the boys went home to take care of the kiddos.  At First Watch (a must-do for me while in Ohio) a sweet older lady pointed out we were all wearing scarves….PHOTO!


Lunch of champions: some sort of veggie/egg thing covered in salsa and cheese, along with an english muffin and greens.  Sour cream ON THE SIDE.


Back to the mission: YakTrax for Emily and SUNGLASSES for me!  Pardon the lack of smile/pose; Emily had the brilliant idea that I should take a picture of myself in the pairs I was trying on so I could compare them quickly.  Below is the winner 🙂


While there, sweet Emily gifted Jen with a new–and bigger–purse (the one she’s been carrying around wouldn’t even hold my lipgloss collection).  Note the gray/green scarf–A Zebra Girl find and her gift from us.  Jen and Dave as new parents without family around don’t get out much, and are so, SO, SO (and I cannot stress this enough), SO low maintenance, I thought it would be nice to get them some things to wear on those rare occasions they DO leave the house.  A scarf for Jen (even childless Holly and Emily know necklaces and earrings are just baby playthings) and an athletic jacket for Dave.


After dropping Jen off at home, Emily and I made a mad-dash to Trader Joe’s so I could stock up on our favorites.  Good news!  We have not one, but TWO TJ’s coming to Buffalo soon!  The one that’s led the rumor mill will be located on Niagara Falls Blvd. up in Amherst (read: FAR), but there is talk of another and–dare I hope–to be located in the Southtowns.  It cannot get here fast enough.

After a light baked-potato-and-salad dinner at the homestead, Emily and I again ventured out in the cold–this time for ice cream.  Just like First Watch and TJ’s, I can’t go to Dayton and NOT stop at a Graeter’s.  I had anticipated getting a kid-size scoop of black raspberry chip, but splurged on a sundae.  I consider it a personal victory that I didn’t finish it.


Our evening consisted of magazine reading under a blanket with a well-known holiday classic movie on in the background.  Who can name it???


Monday morning we did 45 minutes of P90X yoga, which just about killed my arms, and then we showered and got ready to depart (me) and work (Em).  I packed up my TJ’s loot–mostly frozen fish, their awesome Orange Chicken and wine, as well as some dry-goods favorites like fig butter, sunflower seed butter and red quinoa tortilla chips–and loaded the car.


Emily and I did a light lunch at Tropical Smoothie–we split their fish tacos and a ‘Health Nut’ smoothie–before I left.  It was so nice to have some time to sit and chat and not rush out the door!


After only a couple hours into the trip I needed a comfort/coffee break, and snapped a photo of my new sunglasses in action.


And healthy snacks!  Veggies, hummus, TJ’s sweet and salty trail mix and an iced coffee (it was warm that day!).


My last stop: Chick-Fil-A in Erie.  Normally we drive home on Sundays, and they are closed.  But not this time 🙂 I got my usual: two-strip kid’s meal with lemonade and bbq, polynesian and ranch to dip.  I also mix mayo, ketchup and hot sauce for my fries.  I learned it while we lived in New Orleans (that, and a ketchup/mustard/mayo/Tony Chachere’s seasoning combo dip) and whip it up every time.


By the time I got home, I was READY to be home.  I missed my Andrew, but enjoyed my relaxing-try-not-to-plan-too-much trip to Emily’s.  My next one can’t come soon enough.

And the first ‘best recipe’ of 2012 is…

Thai Curry Stew with Turkey and Zucchini!

I’d yanked this recipe out of November’s CL (I took A LOT of recipes from that one…  Must have been all that Thanksgiving yumminess) since it looked like something Andrew would like.  It was one of two ‘how to use turkey leftovers’ recipes from famed NYT columnist Mark Bittman, so I knew it would be good.

Despite zucchini being terribly out of season, I thought I’d give it a whirl anyway.  I was lucky enough to take home some of our leftover turkey from grandma’s and after measuring out the 3 cups I’d need, threw it promptly in the freezer until I had time to make the soup.

It’s fantastic!  It’s a bit hot; I used 1.5 of the 1 to 2 dried Thai chiles called for.  I don’t know that I’d use fewer chiles next time; I think my palate is becoming more and more tolerant of heat these days (must be eating too many wings…).  It’s also a little hands-on; you basically grind up your spices, chiles, coconut milk, garlic and cilantro in a food processor before adding them to your cooking onions and carrots.  Once you’ve done that, though, you’re pretty much done.  Throw in some of the zucchini, simmer for 45 minutes, blend (optional), then add the rest of the zucchini and the turkey.  It’s served over brown rice, but you could just have it as soup, too.

As I was getting everything ready, I realized it would be a fantastic time to try out another recipe I’d been hanging onto for awhile now: Carrot-Ginger Salad Dressing.  You know that dressing that comes on salads when you go to a Hibachi/Japanese Steakhouse?  THAT’S what I’m talking about.  I adore it and always try to savor the flavors in my mouth in hopes of recreating at home.  Real Simple featured a recipe and I yanked it as well, and have been holding onto it ever since.

Since I was making this on a whim, I had to look up a sub for miso (white soybean paste that adds a salty flavor) and I had a couple from which to choose: tahini (fresh out–darn), soy sauce (didn’t seem like it would really work since the textures are so different) and anchovy paste.  Of all the things to have on-hand, ANCHOVY PASTE was the winner!  Thank you, Heather, for your generous donation of tubed anchovy paste to my fridge during your move this summer.  It was a lifesaver!

It came out a bit intense on the salt/vinegar side, so I added a dash of lime juice to brighten it up.  All in all, I think it’s a great recipe, but it was pretty vinegar-y, so I made some notes to myself for next time.  Less vinegar/salt and add orange juice.  A friend told me she’d looked into the recipe and that OJ was an ingredient, which I think would add a bit of brightness and sweetness without adding to the tart/vinegar flavor it already has.

If you’re at all into Thai and/or curry flavors, the stew would be right up your alley.  I know I’ll be making this again–it’s the perfect ‘post’ post-Thanksgiving meal…  You know, after you’ve had a day or so to eat the actual Thanksgiving leftovers just like you did for the big day.

dinner x 2

I didn’t get a chance to post this last night, and my breakfast wasn’t anything worth taking photos of (although I did add frozen cranberries to my smoothie this morning–a first for me), so I figured I’d lump the photos in with tonight’s dinner.

I’ve been on what seems like a constant quest to empty out our tiny freezer here, which is filled with my stash of nuts and frozen fruits, among other things.  I had one pound of beef remaining, and I didn’t want to make burgers.  Sloppy Joes it was!  I found Ellie Krieger’s recipe in the cookbook of hers’ that I brought with me to the hotel.

It’s made with lean ground beef, the usual ingredients (red pepper, tomato sauce), flavorings (molasses, Worcestershire sauce, etc..) and one from left field: pinto beans.  As per my usual modus operandi with beans as an ingredient, I added half what the recipe called for.  I do this because Andrew isn’t a huge fan of beans (who am I kidding?  He doesn’t like them.), but I feel the need to at least try to stick to the integrity of the recipe, so I just use less.  Or another variety altogether.  Neither Andrew nor I like kidney beans, so I’ll sub pinto or white beans sometimes.

Beans fall into the “try them until you like them” category for me.  There are so many things I hated as a kid that I now like (or at least don’t hate) as an adult because I’ve continued to eat them.  I mean, I don’t LOVE beans, but I know they’re good for me and that they can be wonderful in certain dishes, so I eat them.  And come on.  How old are we? We can’t always eat only what we like.

I served Andrew’s sloppy joe on four leftover hawaiian sweet rolls that I kept intact and then sliced down the middle.  They created a nice, large bun for his sandwich.  I used some leftover dressing from the quinoa for a spinach salad I whipped up.  It was all green (spinach, celery, green onions and cucumbers) with some dried cranberries for color and sweetness.  Apparently, Andrew didn’t like the dressing (although he didn’t complain about it on the quinoa), so he pretty much turned up his nose at the salad.  Oh well.

I do have another recipe for sloppy joes I’ve used before that he said he prefers, so I’ll either use that next time, or maybe I’ll come up with my own.  I don’t normally do that (I really like using recipes from my cookbooks–it’s like crossing things off a list), but I really would like to make a healthy, from-scratch version that tastes like the canned stuff you get in the grocery store (because that’s what Andrew wants).

Anyone have any recommendations?

Tonight I made another of Ellie’s recipes, this time her Curried Butternut Squash Soup.  Yet another meal driven by freezer contents, this one used up a bag of frozen squash puree.

Barefoot Contessa has multiple butternut squash soups, to include a curry version, so I’ll have to do a “butternut squash soup cook-off” sometime this fall to determine our “go-to” soup.  I love doing cook-offs with recipes I have in cookbooks.  There is just something about having made all the different versions and definitively picking a winner that gives me such satisfaction.

Both Andrew and I really liked it.  It definitely had a strong curry flavor, with just a hint of sweetness.  And so easy to make (especially when the squash is already cooked and pureed!); you basically saute some onions and garlic, add chicken stock, curry and squash and boil.  I pureed it in two batches in my blender since the onions were still in chunks.

I served the soup with an eggplant and yogurt dish I’d torn out of a Food Network magazine forever ago.  Another easy one, you just cut up eggplant, roast with shallots and garlic, then dress with yogurt and dill and toasted walnuts.  YUM.  Unfortunately, Andrew took one bite and declared he wouldn’t eat it, so I ate his, too.  (I’d anticipated something like this, so I wisely divided up the two servings of eggplant into three smaller ones, so I really didn’t end up eating that much.)

They may not have all been home runs, but I enjoyed making them all and writing notes down in my cookbooks.  I’ll be feasting on leftovers tomorrow!