Monday Mélange: Plain Jane

Growing up, my dad used to call me Plain Jane. It was 100% true when we went out to eat; at any restaurant, it was pretty much plain pasta or roasted chicken for me. But when my mom cooked, I would eat pretty much anything: broccoli, pork, lamb, seafood and more. I can still hear her saying “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.” As I’ve grown up and travelled more, I realize I like things I thought I didn’t like, and then I go into binges of not being able to have enough. Here are some of my favorite dislikes-turned-likes.

P.S. You can expect to never see mayonnaise or blue cheese on this list.

1. Brussels sprouts  – Roasted, crispy or shredded in salads, I can’t get enough of Brussels sprouts. I first warmed up to them when my mom served them topped with bacon on Thanksgiving. In the words of Ina, “How bad could that be?”

roasted Brussels sprouts

roasted Brussels sprouts

2. Chickpeas – This is still a recent development, but in curries, hummus or fried like in this salad, chickpeas are becoming one of my new favorite things.

The Root Trackside salad with crispy chickpeas

The Root Trackside salad with crispy chickpeas

3. Pineapple – I used to think pineapple was too sweet, but after my trip to Nicaragua, I realized it’s the perfect mix of filling and hydrating. Ree Drummond’s guide to cutting a pineapple on Pioneer Woman helped me more than she knows.

Ree Drummond's guide to cutting pineapple

Ree Drummond’s guide to cutting pineapple

4. Walnuts – I used to hate when desserts had walnuts in them, but they’re so perfectly buttery and crunchy, I was really missing out. I also love them in salads or to snack on for some protein.

Chocolate tort with walnuts that I need to try soon

Chocolate tort with walnuts that I need to try soon

5. Truffles – I first had truffles on my dad’s pizza and pasta, and they were definitely a taste I acquired with time. Now, I can’t get enough of the parmesan truffle fries at a restaurant near my school. I love the idea of bundling them together with prosciutto like this.

prosciutto-wrapped truffle fries

prosciutto-wrapped truffle fries

Monday Mélange: Everyday Vices

Rainy Mondays are just cruel. I woke up this morning to my alarm and could have sworn it was 5 a.m because it was that dark outside. But no – just a downpour. It’s days like this – and weeks like these – that make it really hard to stay focused and driven. With only about a month and a half of school left, I indulge in a few of my daily vices to keep me going:

1) Cupcakes. They’re pretty, always delicious, and make me smile. This past weekend, I was visiting friends from Paris in D.C. We stopped by Baked and Wired for one of D.C.’s most famous cupcakes. The long line moved pretty quickly, and even the memory of this strawberry cupcake is brightening my day.

Strawberry cupcake, Baked and Wired | netflix & nutella

2) Friday Night Lights. I fell in love with this show my senior year of high school, and rewatching it from the beginning is the perfect distraction. Riggins is so damaged but lovable, and I find myself easily falling in love with him again every episode. All the seasons are available on Netflix.

Friday Night Lights | netflix & nutella

3) New York State of Mind. I’m using one of my favorite websites, Serious Eats, to make a list of bakeries, restaurants, and bars I have to try this summer when I’m back in NY. I’m having serious cabin fever, so daydreaming of pizza, great baguette, and Shake Shack will do for now.

Serious Eats, NY | netflix & nutella

4) The Notebook. This soundtrack always puts me at ease and helps me focus on work.

5) Shopping. I can’t help it. After doing some spring cleaning, I’m realizing that having that same blouse from the 9th grade probably means it’s ok for me to do a little upgrading. Instead of splurging on 10 items at Forever 21, I’m trying to me more aware of the fact that being in my 20′s means investing in some essentials. So even though I get less bang for my buck, these classic pieces will last. P.S. Macy’s is having an awesome shoe sale… don’t mind if I do!

Steve Madden sandals | netflix & nutella

*The Food Network. It’s supplementary to the top 5 because – who am I kidding – nothing can compare. Even as background music to doing laundry, the Food Network makes me smile. What better vice is there?

Pioneer Woman | netflix & nutella

Multigrain Bread

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the differences between whole wheat and multigrain bread. Is one actually better for you? How can you tell? Apparently, some bread companies assume that using just white flour and rice flour makes its bread multigrain. Though technically correct, two wheat flours is not exactly the “multi” that customer is looking for.

Multigrain bread from the Burlington Co-op | netflix & nutella

One of my indulgences in my small town crowded with fast food restaurants is the Co-op. Not only does it allow me to join humanity for weekend brunch, but it also provides me with fresh and often organic options that I can’t find at the more local and less expensive supermarket. The multigrain bread I bought there lists its ingredients on the front: white flour, whole wheat flour, oats, barley, millet, corn, rye chops, sunflower seeds, flax, honey, and sea salt.

Eggs in Tomato Sauce on Multigrain Toast | netflix & nutella

Truly “multigrain,” I’ve felt a bit more comfortable indulging on carby snacks like open-faced peanut butter sandwiches or this, one of my favorites: a spin on eggs in purgatory. I loosely followed Mario Batali’s recipe, simmering some jarred tomato sauce in a saucepan, adding in 2 eggs, and cooking for 3-5 minutes. Plopped on top of some toasted multigrain bread, this was the perfect hearty brunch.

Eggs in Tomato Sauce on Multigrain Toast | netflix & nutella

Cinnamon Palmiers

The tristesse is overwhelming. I’m missing Paris. A lot.

Cinnamon Palmiers | netflix & nutella

The chouquettes I could buy for under 1 euro. The daily bus rides with a view of the Eiffel Tower. Living avec ma soeur and her copain seems like a distant memory. Even listening to the same playlist that lulled me to sleep in the City of Lights gives me a homesick feeling.

Cinnamon Palmiers | netflix & nutella

Le sigh.

I had to bring in a snack to a group meeting. Someone does it every week, and to feed into my mélancholie, I decided to bring in a snack that could somehow encompass my love for French in one small bite. Result? Cinnamon Palmiers. These little buttery bites of sweet puff pastry heaven are a simple reminder that even if Paris is a plane ride away, some things can bring me back instantly. And even fewer ingredients than the last palmiers I made.

Recipe via About.com (though I used 2 tbsp. of butter instead of 3 as per the comment section and probably would have been fine with 1 1/2)

Cinnamon Palmiers | netflix & nutella

Monday Mélange: Millennial Music

I never really knew what to call my generation – the one that had Hilary Duff, The Parent Trap-era Lindsay Lohan and Mia Thermopolis to look up to. The fashion was questionable, but the soundtracks were great. I can put any of these on and not only know every word, but know the sequence in which the songs can play. It’s quirks like that that may die off with my generation, but I’m holding onto them as long as I can.

1. The Lizzie McGuire Movie – We’ve got HilDuf originals, Atomic Kitten, and Vitamin C, some classic girl-power hits of my middle school years.

2. The Princess Diaries – This one was on repeat in my Hello Kitty boom box. BBMak, Mandy Moore, and of course the hit “Miracles Happen.”

3. Legally Blonde – My first PG-13 movie came with a delightfully millennial soundtrack.

4. 13 Going on 30 – An ironic mix of Liz Phair, Billy Joel, and Lillix.

5. What A Girl Wants – Girl power songs mixed with Oliver James and Duncan Sheik. Just too good.

Monday Mélange: Tu Me Manques

A bunch of my friends just got back from studying abroad in the fall. Who knew that switching from “I studied abroad last semester” to “I studied abroad last year” would be so tough? I know, I know. Have some perspective.

I have an amazing free software called MyShoebox that backs up any photos I’ve uploaded to my computer via my camera or Dropbox. It’s not only great in case my computer crashes (knock on wood), but also send me a bit of inspiration. It tells me what photos I uploaded “This Day in History.” Though it’s bittersweet to see the amazing adventures I had studying abroad last year, I thought I’d share some of my forgotten treasures.

Tu Me Manques | netflix and nutella Tu Me Manques | netflix and nutella Bordeaux | netflix and nutella Tu Me Manques | netflix and nutella Tu Me Manques | netflix and nutella

Balsamic Roasted Red Potatoes

Balsamic Roasted Red Potatoes | netflix and nutella

Cafeteria food isn’t always bad, but it certainly gets to be repetitive. Even the dining halls end up serving the same Asian-inspired-beef and homestyle-fried-chicken meals pretty much once a week. So when one of my favorite dining locations switched it up with some balsamic roasted red potatoes, I was intrigued. After we had the delicious potatoes, my friend and I decided to recreate them (in mass quantity, of course), seeing as potatoes are not only inexpensive but the perfect comfort food for these cold North Carolina days.

Balsamic Roasted Potatoes

5 lb. bag red roasted potatoes, cut into wedges
1 yellow onion
1 tablespoon rosemary
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
olive oil
salt and pepper

I cooked off the wedged potatoes, onion, and oil in a skillet for a few minutes until they were tender (I had to do this in two batches). Then I spread them on two baking sheets sprayed with non-stick spray. I added the rosemary, salt, pepper, and vinegar and gave them a toss.

Roast these at 400 for 30-35 minutes, then give them a toss and let them cook for another 10 minutes or until they are tender and crispy (I even like the almost burnt bits).

Balsamic Roasted Red Potatoes | netflix and nutella

Monday Mélange: Perspective

I’ve been thinking a lot about perspective lately. If you follow me on Twitter, you probably already know that. But as I grow up and face new challenges every day, I find that one of the biggest helps is having perspective. It’s important to face the challenges and learn from them, but perspective is the added ingredient that can help you overcome. Here are 5 things that have given me a dose of perspective.

  1. After Mandela by Douglas Foster – After hearing a bit from the author, I’m excited to read about something so vital a nation’s history and that I embarrassingly know very little about. The stories in this book are a huge dose of perspective.
    After Mandela | netflix and nutella
  2. Duracell Seahawks Commercial - “I’ve been deaf since I was 3, so I didn’t listen.” That’s all.
  3. Atticus Finch: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” I’m rereading To Kill a Mockingbird and this quote stood out to me right away.
    To Kill a Mockingbird | netflix and nutella
  4. Jiro Dreams of Sushi - A documentary about how passion and a lot of hard work is the key. This man turned sushi into an art, and his dedication and diligence are inspiring.
  5. Alice in Wonderland: “I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.” I always have to have a little Disney inspiration!
    Alice in Wonderland | netflix and nutella

A Day in Carrboro

After a little while back at school, cabin fever is always expected. It’s nice to be able to head off campus – if only just for the afternoon – to experience something a bit new and exciting. I went to Carrboro, a town near Chapel Hill and not too far from my school, for coffee and lunch with my friend. The outing was much appreciated after a long week of school, and we discovered two amazing spots.

First, Open Eye Cafe. It’s attached to Carrboro Coffee Roasters and serves one of the best cups of coffee you can find. There’s plenty of seating though most tables are taken by computer-dwelling students. Not to worry though – there’s plenty of comfy chairs for a quicker stay.

 

Latte at Open Eye Cafe

 

Right next door is a Neal’s Deli, a small spot with enough outdoor seating for you to eat your sandwich and enjoy the weather. The pastrami on rye with mustard was most recommended on Yelp, and it did not disappoint. The oil and vinegar potato salad was the perfect side, and it brought me right back to the Upper West Side.

Neal's and Open Eye Cafe in Carrboro  Pastrami on rye at Neal's Deli Pastrami on rye at Neal's Deli

Potato Salad at Neal's Deli

Monday Mélange: Staying Sane

With a new year under way and a bunch of new commitments lined up, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. I’m back at school after an incredible escape from reality at home. As the new semester rolls around, I thought I’d share some of the things that help keep me sane.

1) A great planner – No matter how high-tech our society becomes, I’ll always need a planner. My sister jokes that my life mottos is, “Every planner has a December.” I can’t fight her on that one.

My favorite planner brand
2) Clean up – In my space, everything has its place. Taking the extra step to make your bed, reorganize the clutter on your desk, and spritz a little cleaner makes a world of difference. Not only have you accomplished something, but you’re in the mood to take on more.

Having its place
3) Make lists – From menus to to-do lists, writing things down helps me when I am juggling what feels like a million things. Seeing it all on paper makes it easier to tackle.

Making lists
4) Detox with Downton – Or any of your favorite shows, for that matter. It’s okay to take some time out of your day to turn off your mind and close your mouth and indulge in some British banter.

Lady Mary from Downton
5) Breathe – Taking deep breaths and following my steps is my remedy for stressing out.

Breathe