Tuesday, December 13, 2011

These Cookies are My Jam

This is just a quick post to brag that I have made THE BEST COOKIES EVER. I know I made this claim once before, but this tops it.

Following Thanksgiving I had a stash of leftover hazelnuts -- which, by the way, are really expensive -- and in an effort to put them to use, I checked out this new site Gojee.com. It's not the first site to offer recipe search based on available ingredients, but it is certainly the prettiest I've seen. All the photos are huge and beautiful and made me instantly very hungry.

My search led me swiftly to this recipe for Hazelnut Rosemary Jam Cookies. And, since I had leftover rosemary in the house too, I didn't even have to get out of my pajamas to go to the store for ingredients. For the jam I used two of my mom's homemade preserves, which I always have stockpiled -- raspberry rhubarb and pear. The cookies were super easy to make and turned out perfectly. Seriously, just look at my snapshot above and compare it to Gojee. Pretty good, right? The rosemary gave them a really unique and dare I say fancy flavor. I may even whip up another batch of these to impress my in-laws at Christmas this year.

While I'm bragging, I might as well show off my pumpkin pie that I made for Thanksgiving. Joy of Cooking pie + Bobby Flay's graham cracker crust and some homemade maple whipped cream. So good!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Seagull Living: Week 4

My coupon-clipping, Groupon-buying, leftovers-scarfing journey through November continued. While the Thanksgiving feast ultimately blew our tight budget, we still picked up a lot of deals and freebies along the way. Here's the final round up:

Nov. 22: I took the rest of this holiday week off and spent much of it sleeping in and catching up on projects at home. By staying in my pajamas all day and not leaving the house, I managed to not spend much money.

Nov. 23: We recently started renting a storage unit for our business and received a coupon for a free pizza at Il Porto with the new rental. Cashed that in tonight. Il Porto is a hidden gem on the far north end of Washington Ave across from the Navy Yards. Try the "Navy Yard" pizza with pesto, sopresatta and mozzarella, or the veal scaloppine.

Nov. 24: Thanksgiving! Mr Homewrecker made a beautiful turkey and all the requisite sides. I made a cauliflower, pear and hazelnut dish I saw in New York Magazine, plus clementine cranberry sauce and my first ever pumpkin pie. Yeah, the fixins cost a bit, but it's freaking Thanksgiving, and besides, we're going to live off the leftovers for the next week.

Nov. 25: Saw the delightful new Muppets Movie with a Groupon for $9 admission for two + free popcorn at Alpine Cinema in Bay Ridge. We have rarely gone down to Bay Ridge, and it seemed like "real" Brooklyn to me. Not Cosby show, hipster, stuff-white-people-like Brooklyn where we live. Also instead of Black Friday, we effectively did "buy nothing day" by using this deal and living off turkey leftovers.

Nov. 26: Small Business Saturday. American Express was offering this awesome deal where you register your card with their website and spend $25 or more at any small business that accepts AmEx, and BOOM you get $25 credit on your account. We had a wonderful brunch at Bogato Latin Bistro in Park Slope. Plus, Bogata has deals on Facebook and Foursquare where you get a free side of papas criollas on your first check-in. Scored that too. After brunch we went to Staples and got a Black Friday deal on a paper shredder. Originally $80 -- $20 after the mail-in rebate.

Nov. 27: I'm way into Scoutmob deals now. Tried a cute little Mexican place in Park Slope called El Jalapeno and got 50% off our meal.

Nov. 28-30: Coasted into December eating nothing but those Thanksgiving leftovers.

How did we do? Well, we blew our ambitious $600 food budget big time, but that included a Thanksgiving feast, and still we only spent our usual $800 a month and scored lots of little extras like free coffees and treats. Hardly enough to save our budget, but enough to make each day a little more enjoyable.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Seagull Living: Week 3

Despite my best efforts to scrimp and save this month, the family food budget is already skidding beyond where it should be and we haven't even done all the Thanksgiving shopping yet. Nevertheless, I did find some killer freebies this week, including several of the pumpkin variety!

Nov. 15: Passed a new restaurant on the way to band practice with a sign out front advertising their grand opening that said "Free Coffee. Don't be shy." Don't mind if I do.

Nov. 16: Scored two deals in quick succession today. On my way to Tebaya to use a $5 for $10 Google deal for a Japanese chicken sandwich lunch (plus jasmine tea), I passed the Treats Truck. As I am friendly with the owner, I was gifted a mini pumpkin pie. So cute (and delicious)!

Nov. 17: Keeping the pumpkin theme going, today my friend Ezra tipped me off to a ScoutMob deal at Billy's Bakery for 100% free pumpkin whoopie pies. We met up for a dessert break and then topped it off with two-for-one holiday Starbucks drinks, which was today's special from 2-5pm. Score!

Nov. 18: I earned my free food today. Mr Homewrecker and I served from our mobile food biz in the fancy cafeteria "Cafe 57" at the Hearst building. As a thank you, we got free lunch from the cafe, which was really delicious. I even took a brownie for the road. Passed Nina Garcia from Project Runway on the way out. Then this evening I went to hear my friend Toby read at Book Thug Nation where I gladly accepted a free can of beer.

Nov. 19: With so many good deals the past few days, I was content today to just not leave the house much and graze on leftovers. I also ate the last few bites of my friend Dan's doughnut from Pies n Thighs. Seagull swoopin in.

Nov. 20: A few weeks ago my purse got stolen, which was a drag to say the least. Good news is a woman found it discarded in a nearby park, contacted me, and I got it back, though short about $40, a Metrocard, my iPod and all my credit cards. Another funny upside? All the fraudulent spending the thief conducted on my Banana Republic card before I had a chance to cancel it added up to enough bonus points with BR to score me a $10 gift certificate which arrived in the mail this week. I stopped in an Old Navy this afternoon and discovered there was a 75% off sweater sale happening for TWENTY MORE MINUTES. $10 would easily buy me a sweater at those deep price cuts. I started to panic with the prospect of a free sweater looming over me, but ultimately decided to hell with it when I took a deep breath and remembered that I don't actually want to wear any Old Navy sweaters.

Nov. 21: Last Christmas we took Amtrak to Chicago to visit my parents, and on the way back we got held up by Snowpocalypse. While we were still better off than those who were stranded without flights, I was disappointed with Amtrak's handling of the situation. (We got unceremoniously dumped in Albany and crammed onto charter buses.) My complaint resulted in two $75 vouchers, and today I finally found occasion to cash them in. I had to purchase the tickets in person, which meant making a special trip to Penn Station and dealing with a woman who seems to hate her job and hate helping people like me with coupons and questions about timetables which she did not care to answer. Now I have two round-trip tickets to Boston for Christmas, which at $75 off are still much more expensive than taking the bus, so I'm not sure who wins here. At least we'll have more legroom?

One more week of Seagull Living ahead of me. Get ready for several days of Thanksgiving leftovers. Turkey pie, turkey sandwich, turkey soup...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Seagull Living: Week 2

Week two of seagull-style, food-snatching austerity living was tougher than week one. My enthusiasm for leftovers was waning, but I did score some good deals this week and picked up some Groupons and rewards discounts for later this month.  Here's the run down:

Nov. 8: Didn't score any freebies or deals today, so compensated by eating a dinner entirely of odds and ends from our freezer. A few frozen Trader Joe's meatballs, some frozen green beans, and two freezer-burned bread dumplings that once nuked were no longer fluffy and moist, but more hockey-puck like. Gross. At least I cleaned out the freezer a bit.

Nov. 9: Again didn't score any deals today, so we'll have to count the $2-off happy hour wine I had at Brooklyn Winery where I attended the Work-It Brooklyn social networking panel. Cheers!

Nov. 10: Possibly my most exciting deal of the week, today my coworkers and I walked over to 9th Ave where the Luke's Lobster and Bongo Brothers food trucks were handing out free food as part of a MasterCard Facebook and Twitter promotion. I'd been wanting to try the sandwiches from the new Bongo Bros Cuban truck, so this was the perfect occasion.

Nov. 11: My coworker Jen brought in doughnuts from the Donut Pub, and maybe I had more than one.

Nov. 12: My band played a show in Brooklyn and as "the talent" were entitled to $1 beers all night. Yes please.

Nov. 13: Didn't really leave the house today, but I did a lot of deal shopping online as I planned for the upcoming holidays. Bought a photo album from Snapfish for my parents and scored two more for free with a coupon code. Cashed in some AmEx rewards points for a $75 Avis gift certificate which I'll use for a rental car at Christmastime in Boston. Going to try and shave an extra 10% off the rental with my ASCAP membership discount. I am seriously feeling like an EXTREME COUPONER today.

Nov. 14: Stuck working at the office until 9:30pm. Upside? Boss let us order pizza.

We seem to be on track with our food budget so far, but we're hosting Thanksgiving next week and are sure to go overboard. Mr Homewrecker grew up in Plymouth, MA so he's got a bit of a Thanksgiving dinner precedent to uphold, you know? The trick will be stretching those leftovers until December 1st.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Seagull Living: Week 1

If you know me, you know I'm a bit of a seagull. Ready to swoop in and snatch any leftover snacks. Shameless when it comes to offers of free food. This is why I really don't fare well in open bar situations. My desire to take advantage of free consumables overrides all other logic.

Last month I blew my food budget big time (which I know from obsessive tracking on Mint.com). Now that it's a new month, I'm determined to make up for it. I shaved a whopping $200 off the household food budget for November. In order to make this work, I'm looking for daily opportunities for free food, dining and shopping deals, and any other ways to stretch our budget.

Here's the seagull deals from week one. I scavenged a surprising amount of food from the office:

Nov. 1: leftover Patsy's pizza in the fridge at work from Halloween party; free can of beer offered by friend at band practice

Nov. 2: free fries with the purchase of a burger at Energy Kitchen, who often have deals going if you keep an eye out

Nov. 3: day old Murray's bagel from a work meeting (that I was not even a part of); more than my share of Milano cookies during a work meeting about our new employee benefits; tuna salad made from cans of tuna leftover from our Hurricane Irene stockpile

Nov. 4: toast and jam from delicious leftover rosemary bread a friend didn't use last weekend at his grilled cheese business + free sample of strawberry jalapeno jam from Heat Sweets; can of beer from work fridge leftover from management meeting reception several weeks ago.

Nov. 5: delicious Japanese dinner at our friends' apartment, offered in exchange for advice on how to use Facebook to promote a non-profit. Glad to dispense advice for food!

Nov. 6: watched the NYC Marathon pass through Clinton Hill -- free entertainment! Even chased my friend Colleen for a few blocks -- free workout! Then enjoyed a glass of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir that I got with a $25 credit at Lot18.

Nov. 7: didn't really score any deals today, but did eat one of Mr Homewrecker's delicious stuffed red pepper leftovers for lunch. Shared seagull karma by sending a link to a Scout Mob deal on 100% free fries from Pommes Frites to friends who live nearby in the East Village. I've had more than enough pommes frites lately.

What kind of deals should I get in on this coming week? Send me some tips in the comments.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Dispatch from the Hot Dog Startup

In case you've checked in on my blog lately and wondered where the heck I've been, here's the answer by way of photos:

Starting in June, Mr. Homewrecker and I have been testing our hands at making food... in public... for paying customers.  And the craziest part is it's working out.  The food is really, really good, and people have been enjoying it!  What's less enjoyable is lifting a deep fryer and a giant grill on and off a truck twice a week and having no social life any more, but the payoff will be sometime next year when this blossoms into a full-time food business and we can call ourselves professional cooks!

You can find us grilling and deep frying weekends through October.  Just check out www.snaptrucknyc.com for more info.  This winter we'll be turning our focus back to fund raising (feel free to give us money) and building our Chevy step-van into a beautiful mobile food truck so we can hit the road for real in 2012.  Wish us luck!

Photos: panko-crusted avocado fries with chipotle mayo, Belgian fries with housemade mayo, Chicago-style hot dog, Andouille sausage burger.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Home-Brewed Ice Coffee

Finally figured out the trick to making good iced coffee at home. Make it twice as strong. I ground 6 scoops of beans rather than 3, brewed it in the french press and then simply stuck it in the fridge overnight.

In the morning, add it to ice and a little cold water to dilute the concentrated coffee. If you really want to keep the coffee strong, make coffee ice cubes too!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Summer Salad

It's officially too hot to spend much time in the kitchen, and I'm so sick of turkey sandwiches every day for lunch. This antipasto salad was the perfect bring-to-work solution.

Arugula, mozzarella balls, pepperoni, olives, roasted red pepper, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, oregano, and orecchiette pasta. I had half the ingredients in the house already, so I splurged on fancy cheese, meat and olives at Choice Greene.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Hungover Cookbook

For the days when you sleep right through brunch and don't know what to do:

Hangovers, like the one-night-stands that precede them, come in all shapes and sizes. Acknowledging this fact, THC's a choose-your-own-adventure-style cookbook that diagnoses your brain-pain via a series of visual & multiple-choice questions, categorizing it as one of six different species of delerium tremens, and directing you to a range of detailed recipes particularly suited to said genus.
Read more on Thrillist.com and buy Milton Crawford's book here.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Petunia Window Boxes

Fingers crossed I won't kill them this year. We also anchored the window boxes better so they won't get blown off the ledge and smash into our landlord's yard like last year. Thank GOD she still renewed our lease!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Baby Bookmarking

Two things recently have contributed to an acceleration of my maternal desire to spawn, which has already been kicked up a notch by getting married.

1) My cool urban friends are starting to have babies. Not the old high school classmates who married years before me. Not the college buddies who settled in suburbia. Those friends are all cool in their own way, but recently my friends who are on the same career-oriented, urban-living track as me have started to get preggers. They have cool blogs about their babies and post adorable videos of their tots playing guitar and dancing to Of Montreal and they get to dress them in ironic onesies. It's sort of sweet.

2) One of my clients at work is expanding the marketing of their baby products, so I'm getting a daily dose of smiling baby pics and shinny new stuff baby needs from the store.

The result is a slight up-tick in my desire to have my own little bundle of joy, but perhaps more immediate is the way I've started to bookmark ideas for designing a delightfully decorated room for my eventual mini me.

Like how cute are these Skwirrols decals for redecorating a kid's Ikea dresser set?

Ok, so for now I'm still just really into the peripheral fun things that comes with having a kid. But at least as I watch my awesome friends figure out how to work being moms and dads into their busy lives, and see how they deal with the scary stuff and figure out the tough things and embrace the wonderful moments, I feel a little more prepared to tackle that challenge when the time is right.

Pacifist onesie pic from plutokidstwo on Etsy.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Channeling Frustration Into Baked Goods

Call it cabin fever, or call it misplaced frustration, but I have been baking up a storm. I have all these long-term projects inching forward, but held up by finances or time or energy or whatever. The beauty of baking is you can set out to make something, and a few hours later it's done, it's beautiful and it's delicious.

When you're feeling bad about not accomplishing more, baking cookies is not only satisfying to complete, but very comforting to eat. And eat. And eat.

Thankfully this weekend is sunny and warmer, and I got out of the house on my bike to burn off some calories and keep away from the oven.

Shown above: Lemon Cherry Scones adapted from the Baked cookbook. Macaroons from the Joy Of Cooking, but I took 'em up a notch (bam!) and dipped them in melted chocolate.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Mexican Chocolate Brownies

A cold winter's day was excuse enough to whip up a pan of brownies. I turned to the Ultimate Brownie Book for inspiration...

Mexican Chocolate Brownies, si! A perfect excuse to use some of the chocolate Mr. Homewrecker and I brought back from our honeymoon.

We spent part of our vacation in Oaxaca, a colonial city in the foothills of the Sierra Madre known as the culinary capitol of Mexico for its chilis and chocolate. We gorged ourselves on mole negro, mugs of hot chocolate, fresh string cheese and smoky mezcal. The only local specialty we didn't have the nerve to try were the popular snack chapulines -- spicy toasted grasshoppers.

We spent days wandering the stalls of the city's expansive mercados, browsing the sacks of nuts, chilis, chickens, live turkeys in sacks, cactus paddles, bootleg DVS, fresh bread and tons of CHOCOLATE.

Somehow customs let us back into the US with suitcases full of chocolate bars, dried chilis, powdered lime (for the ceramic cookware we bought) and Mexican oregano.

For the brownies, in a double boiler I melted down the Mexican chocolate bars, which have cinnamon, sugar and almonds blended in with the cacao nibs. I also added a tsp of chili powder to the recipe to give the brownies a little kick.

The resulting brownies were muy bueno. I just may have to return to Oaxaca to stock up on more chocolate soon.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Oh Craigslist...

Yesterday I put some paper lanterns from our wedding up on Craigslist. Then this happened:

1:48am [text from stranger]: "Can I buy the lanterns tomorrow?"

Seriously? At 1:48am? I was already in bed, but not totally asleep, and since I was eager to sell the lanterns I wrote back:

1:57 am: "Yes you may. Please call or text anytime after 10am" [subtext: it's nearly 2am -- please leave me alone until 10am]

1:59am: "Cool! Where are you in Brooklyn?"

He or she continued to text me back two more times finally suggesting I walk a mile out of my way to meet him or her at the Atlantic Ave train station as it is on his or her way to work. What is the matter with people?

This is still not as crazy as the time I tried to sell a spare wedding dress on Craigslist only to end up in an attempted sceme to defraud me of a couple thousand dollars. When I caught wind of the situation, I started to play along by giving her a fake Western Union confirmation number and sending her to my "work address" -- a strip club way over on the west side of Manhattan.

I do think sometimes, however, about all the nice, seemingly normal people I've met over the years selling things on Craigslist, and I wonder where they are now and if, under different circumstances we could have been friends. The guy who worked at MTV and bought my headboard -- the same headboard I bought from a girl on Craigslist a few years earlier for $75 (and a $115 parking ticket). The girl who bought my kitchen chairs and struck up a convo about our shared hometown when she saw my Chicago flag tattoo. The girl who tried to carry a dozen cardboard boxes home on her bike when we put them on "curb alert." The guy who picked up six bags of charcoal from my office. The woman who was going to buy my George Foreman grill to send to her son in college, but then warned me that the scraped teflon was going to give us all cancer.

There's also the Craigslist roommates. The German girl working on a temporary visa. The blond girl from Florida who taught me to be streetsmart and whose brother chased a burglar out of the Williamsburg dive we called home at the time. The subletter who only stayed for a month and sat on the floor of my room listening to Nine Inch Nails with me. The Okie who we chose to live with based on little except that he wore a Pavement t-shirt, and who turned into a long time friend.

Late night text annoyances, parking tickets, fraud and general weirdos aside, Craigslist has been an endless source of not only great, cheap stuff, but interesting acquaintances.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Eff You and Your "Balance"

Here is a selection of comments my female friends had to Gwyneth Paltrow's GOOP newsletter about “finding a good balance between having a career and being a mom”...

"their habits upset me!"

"i first thought, oh, it's not that bad, but then the bits about getting a blow out, and having food delivered, and going out after your kids are in bed... totally vom."

"yikes. so self important. 'let me impart all of my wisdom upon you!'"

"It made me realize why the iPad was invented. For nut jobs who can't unplug long enough to do cardio with their personal trainers."

"Gah! I can't even read it. My first thought was...'ok, you get up between 5:30-6am for "ME" time which equates to working or wasting time doing social media, right? then you work out. Who the fuck gets up with your kids?? Like you have time to help your 3 year old get dressed before you make her sliced steel oats? Your nanny does it.'. Then I wanted to puke so I stopped reading. WOW! Thank god I'm not self-obsessed and a neurotic freak who has a personal trainer and food delivered. (unless it's Chinese and I'm high)"

That last remark was from a friend who actually has a small child and is very much in the midst of figuring out how to balance being a mom with being a wife and being, you know, herself. It's a challenge which is not terribly far down the road for me, now that I've got the wife role in action. And I have to say, I'm terrified to add the needs of a little person to the mix when I'm already struggling every day to balance my own happiness with my husband's happiness with the 1,000,000 things on my to-do list.

One of the reasons I started writing Home Sweet Homewrecker was to counteract the glut of blogs out there that celebrate the triumphs of being a homemaker, or a cook, or a crafter. Sure, I frequently celebrate the times I get it right -- because I need to remember those moments -- but I often write about the times I screw it all up. Just so everyone can remember that we're not all Martha Stewart (or Gwyneth Paltrow for that matter).

I was having an email chat with my girlfriends about this idea of "balance" recently. It started because of a blog link one of us had circulated on the topic which included this quote:

"The problem is, when you’re competent, you know how well you could play every part in your life."

That really struck home with me because I'm constantly feeling frustrated that I'm not able to create more, make more, write more, play more, cook more, read more, DO more. I know I could do so many things if I had unlimited time and resources. But the reality is, we just don't. The day is only so long, and it takes time to make things from scratch, and commute from your job, and wait for the laundry to dry, and the time just gets sucked away.

Unlike Gwyneth and her rich friends, most of us don't have personal assistants or trainers to keep us on track or take care of the little details. Still somehow I forget this when I don't get to see my friends as often as I'd like, and I get the false impression from Facebook that they are all raising well-adjusted babies and climbing mountains and baking fresh muffins and running successful etsy shops. So it was good to check in with my lady friends and discover that we all feel frustrated and under pressure, and we all are struggling to find balance in our busy lives, whether it's with kids, or husbands or as single women.

And why do we all feel this way? Because we are competent women! We are painfully aware of all that we could be doing.

After several emails where we all barred our new year anxieties, this was how one friend responded, and I couldn't agree more:

Holy shit ladies. You are all amazingly strong, talented and ambitious women. Reading through this chain gave me so many different emotions...and I feel weird saying that one of those was RELIEF. Relief in hearing that a group of women who I admire are not without their own anxieties and self-doubt. I guess that sort of thing is just a constant realization for me. I doubt myself and second-guess myself in nearly everything I do and I just need to be reminded that that is just another hurdle.
I hope some of you read this and can get a little perspective. We don't have to live up to any standards set by power celeb moms, only the standards we set for ourselves. And for christssake, it's ok to lower your standards a little. There's only 24 hours in the day to do "your best."

...anyway, as a nod to nurturing my atrophied creative side in 2011, I set up an etsy store this weekend. Not that I have time for that.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

I Just Made The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

Look at this cookie! Its circumference is perfect, the chocolate chips are evenly distributed, and yes, it was delicious. Finally after several failed holiday dessert attempts, I at least get this old classic right. Thank you, once again, Baked cookbook.