Monday, December 13, 2010

We're Back!!! 4 continents in 24 hours!

Our trip to Egypt was amazing! We will have lots of blogging to do about it over the next couple weeks.  We've got lots of advice for any would-be Egypt travelers.  For tonight's installment we'll give a short timetable of the home leg of our trip.  This is pretty much the one bad story we have, but it's pretty incredible when it's written all down.  So hope you enjoy this itinerary!

 Local times listend with NYC's in parenthesis

Sunday
3:00 PM EET (8AM NY Sunday) - Leave Ritz Carlton Sharm-El Sheikh, Egypt (Asia)
3:45 PM EET (8:45AM NY) - Checked in at airport for 5:05 flight

It's been hard to miss the weather issues across northern Europe and the US that have caused travel issues.  I gave myself multiple pats on the back for booking direct flights from NYC to Cairo, since as I put it "there is no snow in Cairo."  However, there is sand and lots of it.  When it is windy the result is a sandstorm which is capable of shutting airports down and delayed our flight from Sharm.

9:30 PM EET (2:30PM NY) - take of from Sharm-El Sheikh, Egypt (Asia)
10:30 PM EET (3:30PM NY) - land in Cairo, Egypt (Africa)

At this point we had to get our bags out of luggage check, change terminals and recheck the bags for a 11:25PM flight to New York.  This did not happen.

11:25PM EET (4:25PM NY) arrive at Delta counter for flight, get rebooked on 4:10AM KLM flight

Monday
4:10AM EET (9:10PM NY) depart Cairo, Egypt (Africa)
8:15AM CET (2:15AM NY Monday) Arrive Amsterdam, Netherlands (Europe)
2:15PM CET (8:15AM NY) Depart Amsterday, Netherlands (Europe)
4:00PM EST (4:00PM NY) Arrive New York, New York, USA (North America)
6:00PM EST Make it home to apartment, all told 34 hours in transit hope we don't have to do that again for a while.

Now for a much needed night sleep!
Best wishes!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Egypt Bound


Nick and I are about to head to the airport for Egypt. This has been a dream spot for both of us and I am so excited that we will be able to share this with each other. Our tentative itinerary is:
Dec 4-6 Staying in Giza,
Dec 6-9 Staying in Cairo, spend a day in Alexandria
Dec 9-12 Staying in Sharm El-Shiekh

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Turducken Fest III (part 1)

Wow!  Turducken has come and gone.  I suppose a 7 bird meal with 75 guests deserves and extra long post. Ha ha ha!  I'm going to break this post up into the cooking part and the partying part.  Here is part one:

  Turducken, a dish name that always draws the "what's that?" question.  Simply it is a turkey that is stuffed with a duck, which in turn is stuffed with a chicken.  Thus the unoriginal name TURkey +DUCK+chiCKEN = TURDUCKEN.  A longer explanation includes describing how it is a cajun dish created by chef's from New Orleans.  This is where the accents, flavors, and combinations of ingredients get their inspiration.  The recipe we have been using is from Chef Paul Prudhomme and is available online. 




  Why turducken?  Well simply, I do not particularly like turkey.  I think it is dry and boring.  Four years ago my roommates and I held a small Thanksgiving party the Sunday before the holiday for some of our friends.  We do it before so people can make it and still get home to their families for the holiday itself.  The next year Kova told me that I should make turducken because it would be fun to make and taste better than plain old turkey.  I agreed to give it a shot and the turducken fest was born.  Our guest number has been ever increasing so this year in order to feed a possible 90 guests we decided to make two turduckens and a regular turkey.  I delegated responsibility for the turkey to Brian since I felt that watching two birds was enough.  I'm going to put the ingredients list at the bottom of this so that it does not get in the way.

  Where do you begin?  Well a little mental preparation might be in order.  This is a long process with many steps that all pull together at the end to create the turducken.  Set aside a full day, bring your organization, patients, and best effort.  And bring friends to help you out.  At this point I sort of break the process down into 4 stages: deboning, chopping, creating stuffing, building the bird.  There are three stuffings, one for each bird.  There is also the gravy, I will put that on last although it's something that can be going on concurrently with the main bird creation.  For the sake of time and words I did not really go into the specific steps, those are in the recipe but wrote this as more of a guide and tried to hit certain pitfalls that you should avoid.
 
  Deboning is a macabre process.  Your hands end up covered in raw poultry and you get a thorough lesson in bird anatomy.  I usually cheat a bit on the turkey and leave the full lower leg bone (they advise to break it and leave half) which gives the bird a bid more shape.  I strongly recommend getting a deboning knife.  I have not done this, but have always used knives that are very similar, and very sharp.  Sharpen your knife before you cut, it makes a huge difference.  It usually takes me about one hour per bird, so bring your patience.  This year I took a shower after completing the deboning, I strongly recommend this just to relax a bit and really clean up.  You also need to thoroughly clean the area where you did the deboning after completing the process.

  Chopping is a simple process.  Cut, cut, cut and then cut some more.  All of the stuffings are based on the combination of diced green peppers, celery and onions with butter, garlic and bay leaves.  This year we added a food processor, it won MVP for production and saved countless man-hours.  Paying up and getting a premium one was definitely worth it since the high end one comes with multiple blades, including slicing and grating ones.  The slicing blade is perfect for vegetables.  I'll give further info on the food processor in another blog entry.  Anyways, for our production this year I upped the stuffings from the recommended quantities, so we made 4 times the shrimp, 4 times the sausage and 6 times cornbread.  So we chopped some 50+ cups of onions, etc.

  Making the stuffing is where it starts to get fun, i.e. when you can start taste testing.  If you plan to increase the number of stuffings like we did you may need two pots to cook them.  I basically cooked half in each pot and combined them at the end on the tray.  Each stuffing basically goes melt some butter, cook the onions until translucent, cook the peppers and celery.  At this point you add the meat, or cornbread, then the seasoning and melt in the remaining butter.  For the two meat stuffings you add the bread crumbs.  This year we made our own bread crumbs, I think this really improved the taste, but the description of how to do that is going into another blog entry.  After creating each stuffing we had to clean the pots to resuse them for the next stuffing.

  Assembling the bird is relatively simple although having an extra set or two of hands really helps.  I had one set of hands dedicated to handling poultry and the others to shovel stuffing and move the clean goods.  Basically start with the chicken put it in the duck and than in turn in the turkey.  Don't over stuff the birds or they wont fit.  Connect them all with skewers and put them in the cooking container.  Two years ago I picked up industrial sized pans for the birds which work great because they have handles that make it easy to carry and pleny of space to hold the drippings.  The disposable bird tins will overflow with juice and drip all over the over.  The bird cooks for 8 hours at 225 degrees, so make sure you get it in the oven early. 

  The gravy is a truly unique recipe.  It is sweet potato eggplant gravy and can taste delicious.  The first step is to put the veggies and garlic in the oven and cook them down for a few hours.  Then you peel and dice them and store for the next day.  At the same time you create stock from the extra bones and store this.  The next day it takes about 30 minutes.  Reheat the stock, then blend in the veggies and puree it.  Add cream and some turducken drippings.  I think this gravy tastes terrific, the problem is it comes out orangish gray, which looks unappealing.  This year, it was much more of a pure orange which I attributed to using slightly more sweet potatoes and completely cooking them.  It had record popularity most likely due to the more enticing coloring. 

   This year prep took about 13 hours, but it was an easy pace with a solid hour dinner break and a 30 minute lunch break.  The process is long and tedious, but the result is worth every ounce of effort and then some.  If you have any questions or need further advice please let me know, I have now made 5 turduckens.

And now for the ingredients list as promised:


ingredients
1 chicken (3 to 4 pounds)
1 duckling (5 to 6 pounds)
1 turkey (15 to 20 pounds)
2 lbs. duck or chicken giblets
1 1/2 lbs. shrimp, peeled
9 cups celery, chopped (total)
7 tablespoons garlic, minced (total)
8 cups green bell peppers, chopped
12 cups onions, chopped (total)
2 garlic heads, whole
4 1/2 lbs. medium onions, whole (about 6)
3 lbs. sweet potatoes, whole (about 4)
2 lbs. whole eggplants (about 2)
3 whole eggs
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups milk
5 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
7 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
7 bay leaves
3/4 cup corn flour
1 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup sugar
6 cups very fine dry breadcrumbs, unseasoned (preferably French bread)
1 (15x11inch) baking pan, at least 2 1/4 inches deep
1 pan larger than the 15x11 inch pan
3 metal or bamboo skewers
6 sheet pans
Vegetable oil
Aluminum foil
1 small hammer

Monday, November 15, 2010

Things that make me smile

My obsession from the past week. Darren Criss singing "Teenage Dream" on Glee. Acapella music + Katy Perry + Glee = <3<3! height="385" width="640">


In other news:


I will be there at the midnight opening night showing with my fellow HP fanatics - Maggie, Deb, Kyo and Perryn. I think Maggie and I have seen every HP movie together (well since we've known each other). Nick is sitting this one out. Apparently he has more important things to do (ie sleep) at that hour.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Apples! Apples! Apples!



A few weeks ago, Nick and I tagged along with Brian when he went to Lehigh in Bethleham, PA to visit his girlfriend Liz. Liz and her roommates graciously hosted us on Friday night and gave us a tour of the Lehigh night scene. On Saturday, the four of us went to Strawberry Acres to go apple picking!




We had a blast! And somehow we ended up with close to 70 lbs of apples... 50 of which ended up in Nick's kitchen. Let Iron Chef with apples begin!! Apologies for the lack of pictures of the apple mountain and recipes. I need to get better about taking pictures. My friends have generously shared their favorite apple recipes. So far, we have made 2 apple pies, baked apples, frosted apple bars, and 2 apple cinnamon cake (thanks Maggie!). This week, we will attempt apple sauce and apple butter. After this month, I will not be able to eat apples until next year!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mid-August Exercise Update

Two more weeks of training down, just over one month until the triathlon.  Several big accomplishments in the last week.  Kova got me a new wet-suit, which is awesome!!!!  Thanks Kova!!!  I finally biked Bear Mountain yesterday, thanks Driver and Voke for coming out with me.  Now to share a bunch of little thoughts.

Notes on bicycle hill climbing.  So a lot of people make a key mistake climbing hills, they go out too hard on the start of the climb.  People will try to power over hills and all that ends up happening is they burn their legs.  What the goal should be when climbing hills is maintaining the same power output from the flat ground, throughout the climb.  When you reach the top of the climb keep the power going and reach top speed sooner on the way down.  Let people go by you going up hill and maintain your pace and catch and pass them on the way down.  Your legs will be fresher for the next climb.  I was riding through central park last week and on numerous occasions saw people go by me on the way up hills only to pass them on the way down and never see them again.

Kova got me a new wet-suit which I used last week in the pool.  Wow! it is fast!!!  I'm sure you have read as much as I have about the legality of certain materials for olympic swim suits, now I understand why.  The wet suit is made from neoprene, which is illegal to use in the olympics.  The suit is also buoyant which helps further reduce drag.  It seems to be cutting my times down by 20%, I would say these are a must for anyone who wants to do multiple triathlons.  It is definitely something you want to test a few times because it changes the way you are buoyant and it is a different sensation swimming with the suit on.  For me it tired my arms out, so I think a little more practice could produce further significant speed increases.

Yesterday I rode up to Bear Mountain Park in Stony Point, New York.  I did the hill climb there which is truly a fierce one.  It measured on google maps to 4.7 miles.  It's a pretty consistent grade and pretty doable for riders of all levels, it's just very, very hard.  There is a significant climb on Route 9W, so if you're unsure if you can do it, see how your legs feel after that climb.  That climb is a similar grade for around 1 mile, so if that feels good go for it.  There are great vistas near the top, it is truly worth the effort.  You can easily hop across the Bear Mountain Bridge and grab the train back to NYC to save your tired legs!!!

Training plan for this week:

Monday: 2/3 mile AM swim, 44 mile bike, 9 mile run brick - doing this on Monday because traveling Friday
Tuesday:2/3 mile AM swim, 2 mile PM swim
Wednesday: 2/3 mile AM swim, 40 mile PM bike
Thursday: 2/3 mile AM swim 6-9 mile PM run
Friday: Traveling to NH for Saturday
Saturday: Mount Washington Auto Road Bike Race!!!! Should be fun, hopefully report next weekend
Sunday: Open water swim with Voke and co.

Hope everyone keeps enjoying the summer!!! Have fun out there!!!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Workout plan for the week and basic triathlon training thoughts

Working out has become a passion of mine.  I love the increase in energy I feel on days when I work out and the better sleep I get at night.  I also enjoy using the time to think about and organize my life.  Here is the plan for this week:

Monday - Morning swim, Afternoon 6 mile run
Tuesday - Morning swim, Afternoon bike ride probably 25 miles
Wednesday - REST!!!!
Thursday - Morning swim, Afternoon run of some length, probably six, although depending on the weather and my energy level, I'd like to push it to 9 miles because I can get a good hill climb in
Friday - Morning swim, Afternoon brick of bike and run, probably 20 and 6
Saturday/Sunday, shooting for a long ride, still working out the weekend plans with my boss and coach :-)

You might be asking what a brick is.  It is a multi-discipline workout with no break in between.  The idea is to simulate a triathlon where you are going to do 3 events back to back to back.  In my opinion this is the most important type of workout to prepare for a tri, because it really works on muscle transition.  It is also the most brutal workout, so if you're just thinking of casually getting into shape stay clear of it because I am completely drained at the end. 

This is going to be a pretty standard plan for the week, I am trying to maintain good balance between the 3 events, I might start adding more swimming because that is my weakest event.  During these workouts I will be doing different activities, Tuesday's bike, for instance, I'm planning on doing interval training through central park.  I'll probably do 5 minutes max power, 5 minutes power off for 50 minutes.  Intervals are an excellent way to increase speed because you are working at a power output above your lactic acid threshold for a short period of time and then going back below it.  The drill also works on recovery which is useful in case you hit the wall in a race.

Right now I'm feeling pretty good about my condition, my speed is where it was last year, my endurance still needs some work.  My leg strength is good, but I think it can get better.  I would say that I am at about 75% fitness, I'm hoping to push it to 85% in the next 3 weeks so I can get up Mount Washington, then I will try to max out for the tri. 

I try to take a practical, realistic approach to working out.  I love giving others advice and help setting their fitness goals, feel free to ask for advice no matter what your level of fitness.

Ciao!

It's August, a brief apology and foreshadowing!!!

We are very, very, very sorry for our lack of blog posts.  In our defense we have been equally busy.  We have just returned to the city from a wedding, congratulations Eric and Laurie.  We owe you several articles which you can expect in the next month or so.  We have traveled to West Virginia and Canada.  We have dined at The Greenbrier, The Fairmont Banff Springs, The Old Homestead, Congee on Bowery.  We discovered an awesome pulled pork recipe, and made several other dishes.  We will catch you up in time, we apologize again for our long break.  In the meantime I will be writing some fitness articles since I am training for a triathlon in September, and doing the Mount Washington Auto Road Bike Race in 3 weeks!!!  More to come,

Cheers!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

High-Line Park

We walked the open length of the High-Line Park this evening.  It was awesome!!!  It is interesting architecturally and they did a great job with the plants selected for it.  The park used to be an elevated freight rail line, that was stopped in 1954.  The park is a walking path that is designed to look like the rail lines did when they were overgrown with wild plants.  I can not give it enough superlatives.  It is such a neat idea and it has become a wonderful community area.  It runs along 10th avenue from Gainsvoort to 23rd street.  They are working on section 2 which will continue from 23rd to 34th street.  Here is a link to the associations website:

http://www.thehighline.org/

Lamb - Asian Themed

We had the first experience with the new crockpot yesterday (pictured left).  We made Lamb that was clearly asian themed.  The recipe was titled spiced lamb shanks.  Here are the Ingredients:

                          


6-8 lamb shanks - frenched
1/2 tsp. chinese five spice powder
2 tbsp. plain (all-purpose) flour
1 onion - finely diced
4 garlic cloves - crushed
17 fl. oz. (500ml) beef stock
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. oyster sauce
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. hoisin sauce
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick

We had to take a few liberties.  When we went to whole foods and asked for lamb shanks we were told they did not sell just the shank, let alone 6-8 of them so we bought about 4 lbs. of leg meat (pictured left).  This seemed like more than the recipe called for so we used about 1.5 times everything on the list, except the onion.  We also used whole wheat flower, it did not seem to impact the recipe.

Method:

1.  Placee the chinese five spice and flour in a plastic bag.

2.  Put the lamb shanks in a couple at a time into the bag, and coat well with mixture.  We cut the lamb into about 6 large pieces, this seemed to work well.  The picture at the left shows coating the pieces of lamb.

3.  Then put the lamb shanks in the crock pot (pictured left).

4.  Combine any left over flour with all the other ingredients (except star anise and cinnamon) and pour into crock pot.  We were happy  the liquid covered all the lamb.

5.  Put the star anise and cinnamon stick in the crock pot between the shanks.

6.  Cook on low for 8 plus hours.


Our crock pot has a setting (I would assume this is standard) where it keeps the pot on warm after it is done cooking.  We were still out running errands when it finished and we decided to serve with a couple of vegetables.  We decided on mashed potatoes and spinach.  The spinach we just steamed in a pot and put a little salt on top.  The mashed potatoes we made with the following recipe (this is from memory not a book):

5 lbs potatoes - peeled
1 stick butter
1 medium container of greek yogurt PLAIN (we got vanilla once it's a disaster)
5-6 cloves of garlic - peeled
milk, salt, peper as needed

Peel and cut the potatoes into small cubes and boil in a pot of water until the potatoes are soft.  They should slide off a fork easily.  Strain the water out.  Mash the potatoes.  Add butter in chunks, add all other ingredients.  Add more milk to make the mixture more creamy.  Mash and mix until everything is evenly distributed.  Kova says to make sure there is enough salt so they aren't bland.

After a quick google search for a wine pairing we learned that pinot noir was the most common choice for lamb, so we grabbed a bottle we had sitting around.  It was a De Loach 2007, which I felt was forgettable.  The lamb came out extremely tender, it did fall off the bone while in the crock pot.  The liquid served as an excellent gravy on the mashed potatoes.  We definitely recommend this recipe.  The next time we might increase the amount of spices added because we felt the lamb was a little bland.  We easily served 4 people, this amount could probably serve 6-8 adults.  This is great for dinner parties.  Our dinner party gave great reviews of the dish.  Enjoy!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Perfect Saturday

Today includes:

Farmers' Market in Union Square
Iron Man 2
Sushi of Gari
Julia and Julia

We went to the farmers' market in Union square today to investigate getting some apartment plants and vegetable plants for the roofdeck. It was a tremendous success. We walked away with a spicy chorizo sausage made from grass fed organic cattle. Kova tried a piece and was very impressed. It looks like we will be able to get some vegetable plants there for a few dollars each next weekend, but in the meantime I'll be designing and constructing the pots that will hold them on the roof. According to one of the ladies it takes 5 gallons of soil to handle a tomato plant, so all plans will be based off this. More to come on this project.

We also got a crock pot, this will contribute to this blog frequently. We got a 6 quart pot at bed bath and beyond, it cost 50 dollars.

We saw Iron Man 2. Iron Man is a favorite of Kova's, particularly, and I like it too. The movie was alright in our opinion. We felt it was a typical sequel, the plot was sort of scatter brained and unclear. It was a fun and entertaining movie, but definitely nothing to write home about. Kova says Robert Downey Jr. is very sexy, I think he was solid in the movie, but like I said, it lacked cohesion.

Sushi of Gari rocked. Kova took me as a late (yes very late) Christmas present. It is the 4th time I have eaten at one of his restaurants and Kova's third. We love the combinations he creates with extremely fresh fish and clever toppings. Each piece is a glorious creation, a flavor orgasm in the mouth. Kova's favorite is the salmon with warm tomato on top, mine is the red snapper with salad pine nuts on top. The seared black cod with miso was also fantastic. We always get the omakase, it's the best. We like the west side location the best, it is a little roomier and nicer. Gari is definitely one of the best sushi restaurants in the city (second to Masa), we love his fusion creations.

Julia and Julia is a really neat movie. Two bold, similar characters who do not know eachother. Meryl Streep is our favorite actress (by a mile) and kills the role, as always. It's a movie about food and all the life that food involves and inspires. After watching the film we are going to have to get a copy of Julia Child's book and test out a few of them. We recommend eating before the movie because otherwise you will be starving when it finishes, but the movie is awesome!

Ciao!

Greetings!

Hi,

We finally started this. We've talked about blogging for a long time so we can mention our favorite, recipes, restaurants, movies, and things to do in New York. Today was kind of the ultimate inspiration to begin. We purchased a crock pot, we saw a sequel to one of our favorite flicks, we ate at one of our favorite restaurants, and now we are watching Julia and Julia which is a movie about blogging and cooking. To be fair to us, our blog is not inspired by this movie, we talked about it long before seeing the movie. But it would be fair to say the movie inspired us to start the blog.

About us:

Nick is a former engineer turned trader from MIT. He cooks frequently and enjoys being adventurous with both cooking and eating. A workout enthusiast, he attempts to cook and eat healthy food. He tries to avoid the cheap tricks of lots of butter, oil or salt in his cooking. He enjoys all sorts of food but his favorites would be fresh vegetables. He was a history minor, and loves classic movies. He is unimpressed by special effects, but does appreciate watching a movie that's thoughtless to pass the time. Hopefully Kova does more of the writing because Nick can be dry and longwinded, and is admittedly a pretty big dork.

Kova is... pretty much the complete opposite of Nick. For every vegetable Nick eats, she probably eats 2 desserts. And for every mile he runs, she watches an hour of TV. But she enjoys cooking and eating as much as him. She is excited to share some of the meals they make, restaurants they go to, and random thoughts and musing. As she also enjoys reading, shopping for make-up products, and sleeping, there will probably be mentions of these things as well. Enjoy!