Wednesday, January 29, 2014

[workout wednesday] lastics and y-7

A couple people asked about hot yoga from my post on Monday, so I thought I might as well do a series on the fitness classes I'm taking over the next month. My friend Alexandra told me about this pass from Classtivity that allows you to try 10 classes at new (to me) gyms or studios around the city. I like running and still do it often but have decided that this year I'm going to focus on all-around fitness by adding strength and flexibility to my typical regimen. I'm certainly not up on the newest and hippest workouts, so I'm looking forward to learning about lots of new classes that I would normally be intimidated to try.

[Lastics]    I thought I would ease into my new workouts with a stretching class. I'll admit, I tend to skip most forms of pre or post-run stretching, so I'm typically ailed by sore and tight muscles. The class targeted a lot of my typical problem areas (quads) but also some I rarely give thought to (shoulders). Sure, I can touch my toes fine, but the moves really made me want to regain a lot of lost flexibility. I think it would be a great class to take on a regular basis but I wasn't thrilled with the instructor. A lot of the stretches were slight movements which she didn't verbalize all that clearly. She would walk around and help put you in the right position, but she couldn't be with you constantly, so I spent most of the class wondering if I was doing it right. I would be interested in trying a different teacher or maybe checking out their DVD workout at home.

[Y-7: Slow Burn]    I find myself going to a yoga class every few months or so. I like it, but I never get into a routine or find a class I really connect with (or want to spend extra money on). It's all a little too zen for me, if you know what I mean. A friend liked this studio that does mainly hot yoga, so I decided to give it a try. Once I decided I wasn't going to suffocate because the room was so effing hot, I actual really enjoyed the practice. The poses weren't any different than a typical class and I felt like the heat helped me get a deeper stretch (I was sore the next day). Our instructor was young and really laid back. (I think she mentioned Google maps and dropped the f-bomb while talking to us about Buddha.) The class was small and only lit by candlelight (thank goodness so no one could see me sweating like crazy). And the music was awesome. Normally I'm bored to tears by "yoga music" but the studio uses modern songs by popular artists. It might distract some people who prefer a more serene class but I found it empowering. (Luckily, they share some of their songs here.) If the studio wasn't all the way in Williamsburg, I would definitely go back regularly.

Monday, January 27, 2014

weekend in review

It's snowy. It's freezing. Our apartment is frigid. I'm miserable (but my Happy Light arrived so hopefully things are looking up!). We did some things this weekend but not much was photo-worthy, so it can quickly be summed up in a list:
drinks at La Botaneria
taxes completed! (but boo to the IRS (ahem, the entire government) for not getting their act together)
brunch at provini
catching a little bit of TEDxGowanus
catching the Grammy's (and actually thoroughly enjoying them!)

Let's get this week started off right. If you can channel and warmth to my neck of the woods, it would be greatly appreciated!

Monday, January 20, 2014

weekend in review

We started it off with a moonlit walk through Prospect Park followed by ice skating at the brand new Lefrak Center at Lakeside. Kurt is a natural skater; I am terrible, but at least I stayed on my feet the entire time...and teetered around the rink at about 2 mph.

 I've signed up for a this pass where you can try out different gyms and studios around the city. I attended my first class (a method called Lastics) on Saturday. As a reward, I treated myself to what I have heard is "the best cookie" in the city at Levain Bakery. I got the chocolate and peanut butter flavor and was even generous enough to save half for Kurt. I'm no cookie expert but it was pretty delicious. And no trip to the Upper West Side is complete without a stop at Michael's and Homegoods for a suburban shopping fix.

That evening I made some Cauliflower Brie soup (getting some use out of my immersion blender!) and we started chipping away at the Lord of the Rings trilogy which Kurt has never seen.

Sunday started with brunch at Fonda and was followed by chores around the apartment. I know I'm very far behind, but I just finished reading the first Hunger Games book, so I made Kurt watch the movie with me. He's traumatized but I can't wait to read the next book and see the movie! The weekend was rounded out with the first bi-weekly GIRLS watch party of the season. Happy to have it back in my life! 

Friday, January 17, 2014

homemade ice cream!

I know it's not exactly peak ice cream season right now, but it is hands down my favorite dessert. Kurt was kind enough to get me the ice cream maker I had been begging for as a birthday gift. I've already made two batches but am trying to practice some self control (small portions and not every night) so I don't give us both diabetes. I truly enjoy the process of making it and there's a lot less to mess up than, say, baking, so I have a feeling we are going to constantly have my latest ice cream creation in the freezer. So if you ever come over to our apartment, I will most likely offer you a bowl of ice cream, because Lord knows I don't need to eat it all myself.

The two batches I have made so far are bastardizations of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams. I plan on getting her book soon, but she is gracious enough to have shared so many recipes online, I've had the chance to test the waters and try a few out. And incredibly, Saveur magazine has an article featuring the "Jeni's base" which is the groundwork for each ice cream that then gets flavors and add ins etc. So in the future I can really experiment since the basic ice cream is already figured out! Genius!

Pumpkin Ice Cream
(adapted from Beet Ice Cream featured in Saveur)

2 cups milk
4 tsp. cornstarch
1¼ cups heavy cream
⅔ cup sugar
2 tbsp. light corn syrup
½ tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. pumpkin spice
3 tbsp. cream cheese, softened
½ cup puréed pumpkin (mine was canned)

1. In a bowl, stir together ¼ cup milk and the cornstarch; set slurry aside. In a 4-qt. saucepan, whisk together remaining milk and the cream, sugar, syrup, and salt; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add pumpkin spice. Cook for 4 minutes; stir in slurry. Return to a boil and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 2 minutes.

2. Place cream cheese in a bowl and pour in ¼ cup hot milk mixture; whisk until smooth. Then whisk in remaining milk mixture; stir in puréed pumpkin. Pour mixture into a plastic bag; seal, and submerge in a bowl of ice water until chilled.

3. Once cooled, pour mixture into an ice cream maker; process according to manufacturer's instructions. Transfer ice cream to a storage container and freeze until set.

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
(adapted from Savannah Buttermint Ice Cream featured on the Kitchn)

Makes about 1 quart
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
2 cups whole milk
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
3 ounces dark chocolate

1. Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry.Whisk the cream cheese, salt, and turmeric in a medium bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

2. Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar, and corn syrup in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Add vanilla and peppermint extracts. Remove from the heat.

3. Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag, and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold. Once cooled, pour mixture into an ice cream maker; process according to manufacturer's instructions.

4. When the ice cream is about 3/4 of the way done, melt the chocolate in a double boiler; let cool slightly. Slowly drizzle the melted chocolate through the top of your ice cream machine into the churning mix; it will form into flecks in the churning cream. Continue to spin the ice cream until thick and creamy.

5. Pack the ice cream into a storage container, press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid until firm.

And in other kitchen news, we got new stools! Thanks, Dad! And thanks to Kurt for the ice cream maker!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

holidays in alabama

Kurt and I arrived in Alabama the day after Christmas. This was the first time ever I wasn't at home with my family on the day of and it was kind of weird. I missed our Christmas morning tradition of getting up and having a big waffle breakfast (and maybe some mimosas like last year) then opening presents while listening to Christmas music. I guess these are the sacrifices you make when splitting up the holidays. 

We still fit in lots of animal bonding time though! This is my parents cat, Pumpkin. He looks so much like Aubie but about twice the size. Soooooo fat!

My Dad recently retired from his job of 39 years, so he brought home all the stuff from his office. This picture of my sister and me was probably sitting on his desk for 20 years! Aren't we cute?!

My mother's highlight of our visit was her chance to make us "Bang Bang Shrimp", a knock-off recipe from a restaurant she and my dad like. Great job, Mom!

One day, Kurt and I set out for a drive around North Alabama. Our first stop was the Belle Chevre Creamery in Elkmont. It is the teensiest town but we were able to pick up some tasty goat cheese from the out of place cheese shop. Sometime I'd like to go back and take the creamery tour where you get to meet the goats!

Kurt and I had high hopes for our drive through Muscle Shoals because of its rock n roll past, but it was a terrible place of strip malls, fast food, and Wal-Mart. Avoid it until you record your next album at one of their famous studios. However, nearby Tuscumbia is cute and old and is the birthplace of Helen Keller. We drove by and got a shot of her house.

We finally made it to our destination of Florence, Alabama. We had lunch in the charming downtown before wandering around the campus of the University of North Alabama.

They have real lions on campus! Luckily we were there while their trainers were around so the animals were running around playing.

Of course we had to check out the football stadium.

Florence is also home to the only Frank Lloyd Wright house in Alabama. We swung by the Rosenbaum House and took some photos from the outside.

Check out that cantilever! 

It's not a trip to Alabama without a visit to Mellow Mushroom. We got some pizza and local beer for lunch before heading to a matinee showing of The Hobbit

One day while out shopping, my mom, Kurt, and I stopped into the brand new Huntsville Brewery for an afternoon drink. They have tons of beers on tap and lots of local options. They even plan to brew their own in the near future. Huntsville has certainly gotten much cooler since I left! Keep it up!

And pretty soon it was time to head back to NYC. Our flight out of Nashville was delayed which gave us just enough time to swing by Jeni's for some ice cream. It was so good, somebody might have even ordered seconds :)

Thanks for the great trip, Mom and Dad! Always fun but much too short!

Monday, January 13, 2014

christmas in west virginia

Kurt's parents own a ski condo at Snowshoe in West Virginia, so we traveled down there for Christmas before heading on to Alabama to see my family. It was great to spend time with Kurt's parents as well as his brother, Erik, and his girlfriend, Silvia.

West Virginia is tough to get to from New York, so we decided the train was our best mode of transportation. After taking a nap, reading, watching a few TV shows, and gazing out the window, the 10 hour ride went really quickly. I would choose a train trip over a driving any day. So much more relaxing!

Sadly, I don't ski (yet) but Kurt, his brother, and his mom hit the slopes a couple days.

One day we went riding in these off-road go-carts. Muddy thrill riding isn't exactly my thing but it was still pretty fun.

A couple days were really cold. It was my first experience with single digits temperatures. The frigid air hurt my delicate Southern skin but made for beautiful scenery. The way the snow clung to the trees made them look fake.

There isn't a ton to do at the resort but one afternoon we visited the pool and hot tub. I was appalled to learn they were outside! We had icicles on our hair and eyelashes! 

Another day, while Kurt was skiing, I visited the spa at the resort for a massage. It was outrageously expensive but a nice way to relax over the holidays. 

We spent some time playing fetch with the dogs in the snow.

We always play this game called Joker with Kurt's family. In the past, our board could only fit four players so all six of us could never play together. As a Christmas present, Kurt's parents made us a flexible board that could expand and fit a larger group. It was a hit and we played several rounds together!

And it wouldn't be a travel post without some food pictures! We ate most meals at the condo but made it to the village once for shrimp and grits.

Next up, our trip to Alabama!

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