Glühwein Mulled Wine

mulledwine1A couple of years ago I went to Vienna for Christmas which was the perfect back drop for celebrating because they do it up right.  I went to the Christmas market at Schönbrunn Palace which was so picturesque.  The streets were covered in white snow, there were stalls selling food, gifts, and drinks and I had my first sip of glühwein which is basically mulled wine.  I thought it was weird at first drinking warm wine but I was soon converted and now every Christmas I must have a glass to ring in the holidays.  This drink instantly puts you in the holiday spirit and what I love about it is, it instantly transports me to that Christmas in Vienna.

mulledwine2You will need: 1 bottle of red wine, 2 cinnamon sticks, 10 whole cloves, 2 oranges, 2 lemons, 3/4 cup of sugar, 1 cup of water.  Using a vegetable peeler or a pairing knife, remove the zest from the lemons and oranges in wide strips, avoiding the white parts. Place the zest in a large saucepan.  Juice the lemons and oranges and add the juice to the pan.  Add the cloves and cinnamon sticks.

mulledwine3Add the sugar and water.  Place the pan over high heat, and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Reduce the heat to low and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is reduced by about one-third, about 20 minutes.  Add the red wine for about 5 minutes and take off from the heat.  Strain the wine from the spice mixture.

mulledwine4Serve warm with a slice of orange and cinnamon stick.

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The Sweetest Gift

favegift1The holidays can be an overwhelming time.  Our calendars get filled up with family obligations and holiday parties.  There are year-end deadlines and there just never seems to be enough time.  Since I have a lot of people in my life who I want to buy gifts for but I don’t have the funds to go crazy, my favorite gift to give is my homemade gingerbread cookies (recipe here).  I’ve always believed that giving homemade gifts is an extra special gift because you actually took the time to make it yourself.  I’ve been making these sweet and spicy gingerbread cookies every year and it wouldn’t feel like Christmas without sharing them.  I also believe that the packaging is everything so I like to use real evergreen sprigs and berries to make the gift festive.  This is my favorite gift to give during the holidays.

favegift2The first step is to make the cookies and decorate them (read here).

favegift3I bought clear treat bags, kraft dessert boxes, and the ribbons from Michael’s. The evergreen sprigs and berry branches I bought at my local florist.

favegift4The sweetest and prettiest gift!

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Thanksgiving in Utah Part II

thanksgivinginutahpart21There are those rare moments in life when you see something so breathtaking you’re in absolute awe.  I feel so blessed because I’ve had a couple of these experiences in my life so far like seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time, walking across the Perito Moreno glacier in Patagonia, and swimming with sea lions in the Galapagos Islands…just to name a few.  Seeing Bryce Canyon from the rim was one of those experiences.  Grace and I decided to hike the 3 mile Queen’s Garden loop.  Nothing crazy just a leisurely stroll through the canyon.  At times during the hike, we thought we were on a different planet.  I mean, when do you get to see red hoodoos everyday?

After our hike, we rushed back to the resort to enjoy the spa and the resort grounds.  We felt so inspired and grateful for all that we had seen so far we went out to the spiral labyrinth to do some earthing (read here) and offer something to the universe.  Well, our earthing turned lethal because little did we know, there were spiky cactus seeds all over the dirt and they were stuck to the bottom of our feet.  We both laughed hysterically because our attempt to be spiritual turned into a painful event.  In the end though, we agreed our offering was worth it because we laughed so hard and we created a moment that we will never forget.

Before we headed back to the airport, we had to see Zion National Park.  There was just not enough time to do everything we wanted to during this trip but I’m so glad we at least got a glimpse of Zion because it’s so gorgeous.  They say this place is sacred and you can definitely feel it when you’re there.  I feel like Zion is the hikers’ version of Disney World because they have shuttle buses to take you through the canyon and all the trails are easily marked.  Everyone looked genuinely happy and psyched to start their hiking journey.  I was sort of jealous I didn’t get to do an epic hike but now I have a reason to go back to Zion.

On our way back to the airport we were craving spicy Asian food so we of course had to finish the trip off with Korean food that we found in Vegas’ Chinatown.  When we finally made it to the airport 920 miles, 3 states, and 4 days later, we reflected on our trip.  Were we tired?  Hell yes.  Did we probably pack in too much?  Most definitely.  Was it totally worth it?  Absolutely.  We’re both world travelers so our biggest realization was that there are so many amazing places to see in the US.  We also realized how incredibly blessed we were that we have our health and all the wonderful people we have in our lives.  This was our Thanksgiving in Utah 2014.

thanksgivinginutah_part2_2thanksgivinginutah_part2_3thanksgivinginutah_part2_4thanksgivinginutah_part2_5bryce thanksgivinginutah_part2_7zion

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Thanksgiving in Utah Part 1

Thanksgivinginutah1For Thanksgiving this year, I wanted to do something different.  I wanted to go out West to Utah to one of those wellness resorts to zen out and unplug.  My sister went to the Red Mountain Resort last year and highly recommended it for its all inclusive organic meals, hikes, spa, and beautiful scenery.  My girlfriend Grace aka Mama is Haute had the same idea in mind so with our discounted flights and hiking boots in tow, we headed out to Utah for Thanksgiving.

We flew into Las Vegas and rented car.  Mama is Haute decided we needed to upgrade to a Mustang convertible because as New Yorkers we rarely drive so why not do it in style?  Our first stop was Lotus of Siam in downtown Las Vegas.  It was probably the best Thai food I’ve ever had.  Our secret find was not so secret because the walls were emblazoned with photos of famous chefs like Thomas Keller and Anthony Bourdain.  With full stomachs, we were off onto the open road.  We were in absolute awe of the scenery during our two hour drive to St George, Utah where our resort was located.  When we arrived at the resort, our jaws dropped at the beauty of the red mountains and the serenity of the grounds.

Before dinner, we decided to talk to the concierge about possible hikes we could do during our stay.  We didn’t realize the plethora of national parks nearby and natural wonders at our fingertips.  What was supposed to be a relaxing and zen retreat was soon shaping up to be a packed schedule.  I guess that’s our style, we hit the ground running.

After a delicious dinner, we decided to attend an earthing class.  Earthing is placing your bare feet on sand or a patch of grass to reconnect to the earth.  This practice is said to give you more energy and keep you grounded.  We also had a shamanic fire ceremony where we burned our offerings and set our intentions.  Sounds kind of hokey I know but our intentions come to light later in the trip.

The next morning we woke up bright and early and headed out to Antelope Canyon in Page, AZ.  When we found out it was a 3 hour drive away we had to check it out.  There is nothing quite like it.  Because the canyon is on Navajo land, you have to go with a Navajo guide.  We walked through the lower canyon which had narrow passageways and tons of nooks and crannies.  We just couldn’t believe that the canyon was created by nature and time.  On our drive back we stopped at Horseshoe Bend (only 7 miles away) which was equally stunning in its own way.

After a long day of driving, we were surprised with a Thanksgiving dinner at our resort.  It was the perfect ending to a beautiful day of seeing natural wonders and being grateful for all of our blessings and most of all for having love and friendship.

thanksgivinginutah2Driving Thelma and Louise style with the top down

thanksgivinginutah3Crispy duck curry from Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas

thanksgivinginutah4Red Mountain Resort

thanksgivinginutah5Antelope Canyon

thanksgivinginutah6My travel buddy Mama is Haute

thanksgivinginutah7I can’t believe it!

thanksgivinginutah8Horseshoe Bend

thanksgivinginutah_9Trying to find the white hoodoos

thanksgivinginutah10On the road

thanksgivinginutah11The most amazing sunset

thanksgivinginutah12Thanksgiving dinner at the resort

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Roasted Acorn Squash with Quinoa

stuffedsquash1I’m not proud of this but I had a one month love affair with Seamless (online food ordering platform for all of those outside NY).  I usually pride myself on cooking all my dinners at home.  I preach to all my friends and family that a healthy, quick and delicious meal is possible after a long day at work but even I succumb to the appeal of pressing 2 – 3 buttons on my Seamless app to get food.  After a month, I can say the experience was 50/50.  When the food came quickly and it was still hot and delicious I couldn’t believe that I ever questioned this form of getting food into my mouth.  Especially when I discovered that a frozen yogurt place similar to Pinkberry delivered to my door at 10:30pm.  I thought there was no going back.  However, when things were bad they were bad.  One Chinese place which will remain anonymous took 2 hours to deliver which was odd since whenever I’ve ordered Chinese on the phone they would come to my door in 15 minutes.  Other times, they would mess up my order or the food was subpar at best.  It’s not Seamless’ fault I’m just saying that I thought ordering food was supposed to make your life easier and better.  So in an effort to save money, eat healthy and delicious food again, I got my act together and started cooking dinners for myself.  Dinners for me cannot take more than 45 minutes because there’s not enough time at night after work to create a gourmet 3 course dinner.  I created this recipe because I wanted to eat something that I’ve never made before, something healthy and relatively quick.  Although Seamless and I had a month filled with ups and downs, it is always there for me as a back-up plan but for now, I’m back to cooking things up in my own kitchen.

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 Acorn squash
  • 2 Cups of cooked quinoa
  • 1/3 Cup of chopped pecans (or your favorite nut)
  • 1 Cup of chopped greens (I used swiss chard and kale)
  • 2 Tablespoons of goat cheese
  • 1/4 Cup of pumpkin seeds
  • 2 Tablespoons of fresh oregano leaves

stuffedsquash2I only needed to use one acorn squash for 2 servings.

stuffedsquash3Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the acorn squash in half and remove the seeds.

stuffsquash4I placed the acorn squash cut side down with a little bit of water and covered the pan with tin foil. I roasted it for 30 minutes then I flipped the squash to roast on the other side removing the tin foil. I roasted it for another 15 minutes. I checked it with a fork to make sure it was tender.

stuffedsquash5Make sure you cool the acorn squash completely.

stuffedsquash6To make the quinoa salad, I combined the quinoa, pecans, greens, goat cheese, oregano, pumpkin seeds, and seasoned with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.

stuffedsquash7I stuffed the quinoa salad into the roasted acorn squash. There will be extra quinoa salad which is good to eat as leftovers.

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Gansevoort Market

gansevoortmarket1One of my favorite things to do on the weekends is to discover new spots in the city.  My sister and I went to check out Gansevoort Market, a new food hall in the Meatpacking District.  I’m a huge fan of food halls like Gotham West Market and Plaza Food Hall because you can literally have a mini food tour for lunch or dinner.  I love that there are a lot of choices and you can make a little tapas experience for yourself.  Gansevoort Market is the smaller version of Gotham West Market and the more rustic version of the Plaza Food Hall.  Gansevoort Market just opened so understandably some of the food stalls were not occupied.  Also, there could’ve been more seating for those who wanted to eat at the market.  All-in-all, the food we did try was amazing.  I can’t wait to go back and try the other food stalls that I didn’t have room for.  In the meantime, our favorites are below…

gansevoortmarket_2On Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District

gansevoortmarket3I love finding new spots like the Gansevoort Market

gansevoortmarket4The Flower Girl

gansevoortmarket5The Bruffin a brioche dough muffin

gansevoortmarket6The most delicious Greek yogurt at Yiaourti

gansevoortmarket7The VW bus taco stall at Tacombi

gansevoortmarket8Chicken tacos at Tacombi

gansevoortmarket9The beautiful common eating area

gansvoortmarket10 Piping hot pizza from Luzzo’s

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5 Things Laura Loves

5things1 Laughing with girlfriends | Photo Source: Sex and the City

Can you believe it’s already mid-November?  A common phrase that I’ve been hearing a lot lately is I’m SO busy.  It just seems like there’s never enough hours in the day to get everything done.  This week, I made a conscious effort to make a little extra time here and there to meet a girlfriend for a drink, stop to look at the beautiful Fall foliage, call my mom, do a favor for a friend, write a thank you note, and walk the extra block.  Even if it was 5 minutes from my day, it made such a difference in my mood and my outlook on the day.  It forced me to slow down and be present.  I’m someone who plans her life and looks at the future more than living in the present which is not always a good thing because I don’t take stock of where I am and enjoy the now.  Taking a page from Oprah, I also decided to wake up every morning and name 3 things that I’m grateful for and they always had to be different every day.  Doing this exercise everyday forces you to see all the positive things in your life versus focusing on the negatives. This premise is the main reason why I started 5 things Laura loves; it was a way to look back on the week on the things that inspired me, loved, noticed, and appreciated.  It’s important to not only take care of your bodies but also your mind and your heart. What 5 things did you love this week?  Happy Weekend!

5things2 Champagne granita

5things3 The Meatpacking District at 7 AM

5things4 Sweater Weather by Ivory Row

5things5 Thanksgiving Dinner Table Inspo | Photo Source: Camille Styles

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Fall For the City

fallforthecity1My girlfriend pointed out to me recently that I’m in love with the Fall in the City right now and it couldn’t be more true (follow me on instagram to see).  Yesterday I just had to take a walk through Central Park because right now the leaves are at their peak.  I entered on 60th and 5th and walked towards the pond and I saw fiery reds, yellows, deep purples and everything in between.  I was definitely channeling Bob Ross because all I could say to myself was “happy trees.”  Fall is probably my favorite season in the city because it’s just such a romantic time.  It gets cooler so you have to bundle up a little, grab a latte with friends, and have snuggle time.  The multi-colored trees are such a beautiful sight to see especially in Central Park.  I’m probably obsessed because we live in a concrete jungle and I do crave a bit of nature in my life.  Take a moment out of your day to take a little break and enjoy what’s around you.

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Bike and Wine Tour

bikeandwine1My girlfriend Maggie and I wanted to do something different last weekend.  Something that forced us to be active outside and to get us out of the city.  She found a Groupon deal for half off a signature bike tour through Vintage Bicycle Tours in the North Fork, Long Island.  Last weekend, we made the 2.5 hour trek to Mattituck, Long Island on the train from Grand Central, biked 12 miles, went to 2 vineyards, and one farm.  The tour also included lunch and two wine tastings.

We didn’t really have any expectations for this tour since we’re both not really into organized tours but we thought it was a great way to do something different without having to organize everything ourselves.  It was a great workout (we actually broke out into a sweat); the 2 vineyards, Martha Clara and Laurel Lake, were both gorgeous; and we got to eat delicious apple cider donuts at Harbes Farm.  The tour was well organized especially since there were about 40 people on the tour.

The only thing we wished was that we had more time at one of the vineyards to sit in the sun with a bottle of vino but we did realize that we were on a bike tour not a drinking tour.  Both of the vineyards had a plethora of Fall activities and live music.  Harbes Farm was a one-stop shop for all your fun Fall activities like apple and pumpkin picking, corn maze, hay rides, and all of the yummy treats that you could think of yes, that included pumpkin pie ice cream!  Vintage bicycle tours is now closed for the season but I highly recommend doing this when they reopen in May.  It’s a great way to see the North Fork, drink some wine and get a pretty decent workout out of it.

bikeandwine2{Love Lane is the Main Street in Mattituck}

bikeandwine3{Laurel Lake Vineyard}

bikeandwine4{Martha Clara Vineyard}

bikeandwine5 {Cheers to a fabulous day}

bikeandwine6 {Martha Clara has horse-drawn carriage rides}

bikeandwine6 {Fall perfection at Harbes Farm}

bikeandwine7 {The best apple cider donut from Harbes Farm}

bikeandwine8 {The perfect dinner of wine and cheese at Roanoke Vineyard}

bikeandwine9 {Waiting for the train to Grand Central}

All photos taken with my iphone 6

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Pumpkin Pie Bars

pumpkinpiebarsI have a pumpkin-everything obsession.  When it hits October, I’m drinking pumpkin spiced lattes (homemade of course read here), pumpkin beer, eating pumpkin infused dishes and desserts.  I wanted a pumpkin pie dessert without all the crap in it so I decided to make my pumpkin pie this year into bars (for portion control) also vegan and gluten free.  I have to confess that the first batch was a bit of a failure not because it didn’t taste good but the proportion of the spices were off and the filling was too watery.  I tweaked a few things here and there and I can proudly say that these pumpkin pie bars will not have you missing the excess sugar and butter.  It was successfully taste-tested by my family who didn’t know it was vegan and gluten free.  I’m sort of thinking that I might not go back to the traditional recipe laden with butter, cream, and sugar.  After all, the holiday season is upon us and we don’t want to miss out on our favorite desserts.

Ingredients:

for the crust:
  • 2 cups gluten-free graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup virgin coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tablespoons coconut nectar syrup (I found it at Whole Foods)
for the pumpkin filling:
  • 1 (14-ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup natural cane sugar
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup full-fat canned coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons almond milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1.5 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • pinch fine grain sea salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and lightly grease an 8-inch square pan.
  2. Prepare the crust: In a medium bowl, combine the graham crumbs, melted coconut oil, and sweetener until the crumbs are thoroughly coated in the mixture. Scoop the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth out evenly. Make sure you press firmly so that the graham cracker mixture sticks together.
  3. Pre-bake the crust, uncovered, for 10 minutes at 350F.
  4. Prepare the filling: In a bowl, combine all the ingredients and whisk together using a hand-held blender until completely smooth, scraping down the bowl as needed. When the crust has come out of the oven, immediately pour this filling on top of the baked crust and smooth out as evenly as possible with a spatula.
  5. Bake, uncovered, for around 40-45 minutes at 350F or until the filling has darkened slightly. The filling will still be a little soft. Place on a cooling rack for about 60 minutes and then into the fridge to set overnight.
  6. Slice into squares and serve with a dusting of cinnamon and chopped walnuts.
  7. Store leftovers in the fridge for later.
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