Have a cup o’ tea (behavioral change)

I am not sure how the week flies by so quickly. It seems like yesterday that I was posting about the perfect cornbread casserole, but it turns out that that was on Sunday night (!), already three days ago.

Sunday night before I posted Bobby and I went out to a Vietnamese place with our friend down in Chinatown thanks to a blogger rec and it was delicious. That post will have to wait until I upload the pictures though.

Wednesday Thoughts.

In the meantime, I wanted to share some insights from a really interesting conversation I had last night. My friend gave me some really important advice about making or breaking habits. There is so much more that I want to say, but I will not go into it all at once. For now, here is what I have to say (and if none of this makes sense, I apologize – skip down to pictures of yummy food!).

  • If you have a cup of tea, just enjoy your cup of tea. Savor it. Smell it. Feel its warmth. Focus on your breathing. How do you feel? What are you thinking? Are you enjoying the tea, or is it simply background noise to something else you are doing? Was that what you had intended?
  • We base our anxieties and worries on our own histories. Just because something happened yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that, and … – does not mean that it has to happen today.
  • When we are building new habits and destroying old (bad) ones, it can be problematic to create deadlines/timelines. Habits do not abide by time limits. Instead, try to focus on doing your new habit XX times in a week (day? month?). Then slowly increase the number of times you practice your new habit and decrease the number of times you practice the old one.
  • Behavior is physical and chemical and it CAN BE CHANGED.

Next time I want to talk about starters/initiators vs. maintainers. More to come!

Onto food.

Heather posted today about her standard dinners. Mine are actually quite similar! Here is one:

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I usually have a nice base of veggies and I top it with fatty things that are healthy. This was (as far as I can recall)…

  • stirfry of leeks and broccoli (in butter)
  • then I tossed in 2 chopped tomatoes
  • the toppings were probably nutritional yeast, parmesan, and maple syrup

My favorite veggies that are almost in these big bowls are Brussels sprouts and broccoli.

Yum! Also yum:

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This is roasted kabocha (possibly from the same night). It was an unripe kabocha, but I have discovered that the best way to salvage these (they just aren’t as sweet) is to roast them in the oven at about 375F for 30-40 minutes. There is something wonderful about my current oven (maybe because it’s gas?) and the kabocha comes out deliciously starchy and good.

I am off to eat some oatmeal for dessert. I am catching up on last night’s Biggest Loser as well (I was on the phone and missed most of it).

What habit do you wish you could change?

My boyfriend’s back…

I had another non-planned-exercising day today. Here is what I did:

  • Take the N train from 60th to 14th (Union Square)
  • Stop at the farmers’ market and pick up 5 pounds of apples for $2 (they weren’t very good; no wonder they were only 40 cents/pound)
  • Walk from 16th Street to work (10 blocks)
  • After work, walk 17 small blocks and 3 big ones to check out a new grocery store
  • Walk home (17 small blocks and 3 big ones)

I count all that walking as my exercise. It’s probably about 3 miles total, which is really not bad at all. Plus, I got to check out a cool new store that was recommended to me by a reader (thanks, Kendall!). It’s called A Matter Of Health and it’s on 77th Street and 1st Avenue.

I got my absolute favorite food ever at A Matter of Health: KABOCHA!

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Catch ya later! Have a good night.

How To Make Gingerbread Houses

Yesterday I gave you a teaser about my gingerbread house adventure – you get the full story today!

A week ago (last Sunday – when I blogged about exercise) I took the subway out to Flushing to visit my (Bobby’s) aunt and uncle. Auntie Jo had offered a while ago to teach me how to make real gingerbread houses – the recipe was from her German housekeeper (I think she said it’s from 45 years ago). I jumped at the opportunity – Auntie Jo is so sweet and I love learning new things about baking.

When I got there we got breakfast (see this post for my New York bagel). Auntie Jo had made the dough the night before (you have to chill it) so when we got back, we started with the baking process. Here is the recipe (hand-typed from Auntie Jo’s recipe book):

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It says…

GINGERBREAD HOUSES (from Cookie Cookery)

Mix together until smooth:

  • 1 cup shortening (2 bars)
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup molasses

Stir into above and mix well:

  • 1/2 cup hot water

Beat 2 eggs and stir into the sugar mix.

Sift together, adding slowly:

  • 5.5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon powdered cinnamon

Place dough in containers and freeze or chill. Roll to 1/8 – 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out with a pointed knife following a cardboard patter: 2 each of front, side, and roof. Chimney is optional.

Warm oven to 350. Bake 10-15 minutes. Let cool. Put together with Royal Icing. Decorate.

ROYAL ICING

Add 2.5 cups of sifted confectioner’s sugar and 1/4 teaspoons cream of tartar to 2 egg whites.

Heat, stirring, in the top of a double boiler until warm and smooth. Remove from heat, beat in electric mixer at highest speed for 5-6 minutes, until icing stands in peaks. Cover bowl with damp towel and put into refrigerator. Can tint with food color, or may squeeze through a pastry tube with decorating tip.

Use to cement house together. When sides are secure, use to place ornament candies on house.

<—End Recipes—>

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This was the baking station: a beautiful recipe book (handmade), a cutting board, cardboard cutouts (for making the house shapes), flour, a rolling pin. The dough is in that metal bowl.

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First, you flour the cutting board. Then you roll out the dough (with a rolling pin) until it’s about 1/4 – 1/8 inches thick. Use the cardboard shapes to cut out the pieces for the house.

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Auntie Jo showed me how to scoop under the dough before cutting it out so that it comes off the cutting board more easily.

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I had fun cutting out the pieces! Mine were not as nicely shaped as Auntie Jo’s, but she has more practice than I do (I’ll keep trying).

Duke (Ellington) kept us company:

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(He didn’t get any gingerbread.)

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After we did the houses, we still had dough left, so we did some cutouts – that’s a carrot cookie cutter. It is so cute. The house pieces came out and we put them in the garage to cool:

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While they cooled, we took a break…

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…To eat cinnamon toast with butter and hot tea with milk and sugar.

me morris jo

Uncle Morris DJ’d and played us some lovely jazz music while we baked that afternoon.

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Then it was time to make the icing. We didn’t use a double boiler; we just boiled water in a pan and put the metal bowl with the icing batter inside.

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And we beat the icing in the mixer – beautiful. We used a pastry tube thing to squeeze the icing (like glue) and put the houses together.

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The roofs go on last. We actually ended up with an extra base, so I put a heart on it and gave it to Bobby.

After I put on the roofs, I packed up the houses and took them home to finish decorating (it was late). I just decorated them yesterday (Saturday), and this is how they came out:

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I used gummy bears and chocolate chips.

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I’m giving them to my coworkers and my cousin (in-law-to-be). I think they make great gifts – I’ll definitely be making them next year too.

Thank you Auntie Jo for teaching me! And to Uncle Morris for great company 🙂

I’m actually on my own now… Bobby is en route to Miami (should touch down in about 25 minutes) and I miss him. But I’ll see him on Wednesday. I’m still missing the cats, too.

Have you ever made gingerbread houses? Do you give baked goods as presents? What are your favorite things to make?

Review: Joe’s Shanghai In Chinatown (New York)

My coworkers think this post should be called The Salad Girl Exposed”.

Disclaimer: all photos in this post are from Yelp.

Today’s lunch (Saturday) was at Joe’s Shanghai in Chinatown. Bobby and I met up with my 2 coworkers, their significant others, and a few other friends (11 of us total) for a huge meal. Joe’s is pretty famous; it has a great reputation and I was really psyched to try it. It did not disappoint. Joe’s is a pretty standard Chinese restaurant (not Dim Sum) and it’s very cheap (but rather expensive for Chinatown).

We let G do the ordering for the table and he did a great job. We started off with Joe’s soup dumplings. There are 8 in one order ($6.65 for crab/pork; $4.65 for pork) and I’m pretty sure that G got 12 orders of them (6×8 of crab/pork; 6×8 of pork). There were only 4 dumplings left by the end of the meal and Bobby and I got to take them home.

These were amazing. Apparently soup dumplings are something of an art form in China, and Joe is a celebrity. The dumpling contains a savory broth and meat in the middle. You bite a small piece of the wonton-ish dumpling part off, slurp out the soup broth, and then eat the dumpling. They are served atop steamed napa cabbage, which I happily ate as well.

We also got a soup – I think it was the Hong Kong Style Hot & Sour Soup ($6.35). It came with shrimp, some meat (chicken or pork?), mushrooms, tofu, egg, and maybe more. The broth was your standard hot and sour broth.

This was really delicious as well. Lots of variety in the flavors and ingredients, very fresh and hot – it was perfect for a miserable weather day like today. (For those of you not in this area – today it was raining/snowing all day and absolutely freezing. I am so glad to be inside my overheated apartment right now.)

Those were just the appetizers. We also got 2 orders of shrimp fried rice ($8.95)… (it was okay; I’m not really a rice person).

A bunch of scallion pancakes ($2.35 each) (freaking amazing – I could not get enough)…

A tofu dish called Bean Curd Home Style ($8.95), which was pretty good for being tofu. I liked the veggies best. I couldn’t find a picture.

Another (unpictured) dish was the String Beans Szechuan Style (With Pork) ($8.95). These were sauteed string beans with little pieces of pork – kind of like chorizo. They were pretty good, but very salty.

We also got Clams In Black Bean Sauce ($13.35), which were really good as well. I love clams!

And for dessert we got a fried red bean pancake that I can’t find on the menu. It looked pretty much like this… (picture source).

I had like 5 pieces of it. I think red bean is my most favorite dessert thing ever.

After lunch we walked over to a boba tea shop called Ten Ren but on the way we stopped to get Chinese dried fruits and candies. More on that later. Bobby got a Hot Taro Milk ($3.00) drink with jelly in it and shared it with me. Today was a perfect day for a hot drink. It is so cold outside.

The milk was purple!

I’m sitting on my couch now eating some grapes from Chinatown ($1.80 per pound for sketchy grapes totally beats Whole Foods’ $3.99 per pound organic grapes).

Question of the day is… what’s your favorite Chinese food dish?