May 30, 2012

Old New York ~ Brooklyn Bridge Style ~ Wordless Wednesday

We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge during Memorial Day weekend. The air was hot and humid; there was a traffic jam of tourists. These photos tell a more perfect story.

Made this the cover photo for the Staycation Mama Facebook page. Like it!

The hot husband/photographer

May 29, 2012

Staycation con Sizzle: Spanish Pork Chops and Quinoa

I mentioned in my Garam Masala post that we order delivery or eat out way too often. It eats into our budget (pun intended) and I want Savannah to grow up with the smells and tastes of home cooked food. Thanks to the generous women behind Chulita's Famous, a NYC-crafted gourmet Latin seasonings company, we were gifted jars of sofrito and adobo so I could attempt Spanish cuisine at home for a yummy Latin staycation. 

Sofrito con Spices smells good!
For my Latin cooking debut, I adapted their Pork Chop con Spices and Yellow Rice recipes. I roasted rather than grilled our chops because I have a needy toddler that doesn't like focused on the stove for more than a few minutes at a time.  For this same reason, I could only imagine making one side dish while solo parenting, so I adapted their yellow rice recipe and turned it into a multi-food-group quinoa with tomatoes, black beans, and peas instead of cooking a separate vegetable and/or additional protein.

Food bloggers don't usually post pics of raw meat, do they? Whatever.  I slathered on a teaspoon of sofrito to both sides of each pork chop and sprinkled them with Adobo Sabroso before baking at 350 for an hour-ish. Seemed impossible to over season. Next time I will allow them to marinate in the mixture prior to cooking.

I'm really proud of the quinoa dish I cooked up and will include the recipe below as well as additional serving suggestions.  Here are photos of the cooking process:

Oil, Sofrito con Spices, chunks of tomato (instead of tomato sauce which I didn't have on hand)

Mini kitchen = Mini mis en place

Water and sofrito mixture is a'boilin'. Time to stir in the quinoa!

Keep toddler busy while I'm sweating in the kitchen - get her painting!

Wall as easel, paper plate as pallet, and q-tips as brushes. Only the best for Savvy ;)

Beans and peas added at the last minute, and we're ready to eat!
A sprinkling of cilantro and dinner is served. Proud, sweaty Staycation Mama conquers Latin flavors at home!

Savvy samples the sizzle

Then the pork con spices

She loved it I swear.

There's the smile!

The perfect bite - the seasoning packs a powerful punch and permeated throughout the quinoa and pork.

I had no idea it could be so easy to cook such flavorful dishes! There was no guesswork at all. All the flavors are in the Chulita's jars--I didn't need to chop onions, dice and sauté garlic, constantly add salt and pepper to taste, nada.

And here's the quinoa recipe that I'm calling Staycation Quinoa con Sizzle.

Staycation Quinoa con Sizzle 
adapted from Chulita's Famous Yellow Rice
(I hope this isn't plagarism)

1 1/2 cups pre-rinsed Quinoa
3 cups water
3 tablespoons Chulita's Famous Sofrito con Spices
2-3 tomatoes on the vine, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Chulita's Famous Sazon con Sizzle to taste (approx 2 tablespoons)
1 bag Steamfresh Frozen sweet peas
1 can low sodium Goya black beans, drained & rinsed
Fresh cilantro, chopped as garnish

In a medium saucepan, heat oil, sofrito and tomatoes until they begin to caramelize. Add water and bring to a boil. Add quinoa and sazon and cook to package directions, stirring occassionally.  When water is absorbed by the quinoa and nearly all evaporated, add the frozen peas and beans, stirring to combine. Heat 1-2 additional minutes.

Serving suggestions for leftovers:

-Turn this into "nachos" you can eat with a spoon by melting cheese on top of your serving, adding your favorite salsa verde or sliced jalapenos, and dollop of sour cream.

-Serve as a side dish to a cheese omelet for an easy breakfast, or for a fancy brunch at home, serve as a bed for poached eggs and your favorite salsa. 

-Make a quick lime vinaigrette with lime juice & olive oil and serve with the refrigerated quinoa over a bed of romaine lettuce. 

Chulita's Famous is a woman-owned NYC start-up food company. Their products are available at gourmet shops throughout NYC and via their website. I definitely recommend checking them out, whether you cook Spanish food regularly or are a complete newbie like me. All the Spanish flavor you need is in the jar. Let yourself experience the umami explosion of peppers, cumin, garlic and other seasonings they manage to cram into their products.

{Disclosure: I was given samples of Chulita's Famous products for review purposes. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.}

May 23, 2012

Flashback: Montauk Family Vacation {Wordless Wednesday}

One year ago this week, we took a family getaway to Montauk, Long Island, for a relaxing, off-season escape from city life. We took the jitney, stayed at The Surf Club, cooked all our own meals with fresh seafood from the nearby marina, visited the lighthouse on a clear day, and enjoyed showing Savannah the ocean.

My husband has time off in June and we haven't planned a trip yet! Family vacation FAIL. Savannah doesn't have a passport yet -- where should we go?!

May 21, 2012

Love Long Island City? Could we live here?

That's what I'm trying to determine.

Do I love Long Island City? That's what I'm trying to figure out, exploring it as part of my mission to find a new neighborhood to call home, possibly as a home-buyer.  For many years, I've had a love/hate relationship with this part of Queens. Extreme hate because every time I take the Queensboro bridge from Manhattan to Queens, I get lost in LIC looking for the LIE. And extreme love because my favorite museum, the MoMA PS1 Contemporary Art Center is located here near 5pointz, an awesome place to see graffiti art. But could one museum sustain me? Hmm.

During a recent weekday afternoon, I took Savvy to explore LIC. Here is a photo tour of us visiting my favorite spots and discovering some neighborhood finds that have me a little bummed about being priced out of real estate here, at least according to one real estate brokerage firm I popped into. I'm still determined to find something.

Goodbye Upper East Side!
Hello shabby-chic Long Island City

First stop, 5 Pointz

Graffiti artist at work. Never saw that here before.

Dancing without any music. Must've been the spirit of hip hop taking over.

Savvy loved the elevated choo choo tracks in the distance.

Next stop was the MOMA PS1 Contemporary Art Center, housed in a former public school building. They don't allow photos in the museum; you're only allowed to take pics in the outdoor courtyard, which was closed for installation during our visit. But I snapped a few clandestine shots anyways, just not of the exhibits. Hope I don't get in trouble for posting these!

The look of sheer wonderment

This exhibit recreated a 40 voice choir, each voice given a dedicated speaker arranged in a circle along the perimeter of a cavernous room. Amazing listening experience--almost better than live because you could put your ear up to each speaker to hear the individual singers or sit in the center for a concert-like experience.

While at the museum, we met a family that lives in the Hunters Point, a gentrified section of LIC a stone's throw from the industrial scent of car repair shops, food cart storage, taxi parking lots, etc. They told us that their neighborhood near 50th Ave is the place to be -- 3 minute subway ride on the 7 train to Grand Central, 15 minute walk to Greenpoint, 25 minute walk to Williamsburg. The father, a 20 year resident of the West Village said he was shocked to like living in Long Island City so much, and they're planning to stay for many years. And like a true resident of a gentrified area, he spoke enthusiastically about the organic grocery stores.

Here's what we saw on our walk to Gantry State Park and Hunters Point:

Awesome truck!

Lots of "tachies"
A sense of humor + abandoned lot = art installation

We reached civilization on Vernon Blvd after 10 minutes of walking. This street has improved a ton even since we looked at renting on the waterfront 2 years ago. There are a handful of cute date spots, a comedy club, a family friendly burger joint, a veterinarian, and *ding ding ding* a pediatrician's office. Maybe if they take our insurance, it would warrant the hefty price tag for 2 bedroom condos...

Vernon Blvd

We finished our afternoon trip to Long Island City with a trip to Gantry State Park on the East River, with great views of Manhattan, although from our vantage point, the UN blocked our view of the Chrysler Building.

I've been here before, and aside from the skyline view I'm not a big fan of the park. There isn't much shade on hot sunny days, I now learned that the playground doesn't have swings, and the atmosphere feels very forced, kind of like the artificial neighborhood created by the slew of luxury high rise apartment buildings.

Savvy in the foreground, McHighrise in the background

Oh hai Manhattan

A destination for every Long Islander!

Yeah, this is beautiful, but do we want to live here? Hmmmm.

Fun playground, but no swings and LIMITED SHADE.

We had a great afternoon here, but I'm still not sure if it feels like "home".

What criteria do you use to decide on where to purchase or rent a home? Aside from the biggies like schools and cost of living.  Maybe I should create a neighborhood rating system...

The next neighborhoods I plan to visit as part of our home-buying exploration are Astoria, Forest Hills and the Upper West Side. I'll write more posts like this in case anyone else is apartment hunting.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...