September 20, 2016
Hello world! I’ve made it! The Big Apple! Huzzah!
One of my friends in high school put in a request for a “college update” of sorts (I guess I do have fans?!), so here I am. Welcome to this.
First of all, I love living in New York City. While I do enjoy the greenery and quiet of my suburban town, nothing — for a young person like myself — can compare to life in a big city. I mean, the picture above is a view I had while studying. Even studying is better in New York!
Though I really enjoy driving, I love being able to walk everywhere at anytime of day here. I walk to class. I walk to get food. I walk to go to yoga. I walk to do activities. I walk to study. Walking is so good for the mind, body and soul, and I’m so appreciative that I can do it every day. And every time I step outside, there’s something new to see: an elderly man walking three black Scottie dogs, a grandma in roller skates drinking iced coffee, a mother pushing her two fedora-adorned twin sons in a stroller. I come from somewhere where everyone acts and dresses the same, and it’s so refreshing to step outside and see no two people who are alike.
Living in a city is an absolutely fantastic way to start fresh, at least in my opinion. If you regularly read my blog, you know I had a shitty-ass senior year, and I came out of it with a lot of baggage. I knew it, my friends knew it, everyone around me knew it: I needed to physically leave it all behind and begin anew. And so I did.
Whenever I feel anxiety, saltiness or that old high school angst creeping up through my chest, I get out and distract myself. That’s one of my favorite parts about the city: there are always places you can go to clear your mind. My special place is the Elizabeth Street Garden, a park filled with flowers, sculptures and benches to sit on.
Another special place of mine? My new yoga studio, Laughing Lotus! Think purple everywhere, glitter, unicorns, wall art with vibrant colors, disco balls and funky music — AKA me in a nutshell. It’s less than a 15 minute walk from my dorm, so I can go all of the time, yes, even between classes. What a concept!
Speaking of classes, I’m definitely digging mine (for the most part) so far. I’m majoring in Global Public Health and Food Studies — couldn’t have picked a better program for me. Instead of being super hardcore science-y, my classes are much more interdisciplinary, focusing on food in political, historical and culinary contexts, among others. This semester, my “science” class’s lab is cooking. That’s right, cooking. I get to spend two and a half hours every week in a kitchen! It’s awesome!
(Please excuse the horribly dorky mirror selfie. It was in fact absolutely necessary.)
For any of you youngins out there looking at colleges, one thing I’d highly suggest is finding a school where you can get into your area of study right away. I’m taking four classes this semester, and three of them directly relate to things I’m really interested in. Yes, it’s important to explore other subjects — you never know what you might fall in love with — but if you, like I, have known what you’ve wanted to study since you were 14, seek out a place where you can dive in right away. It just makes your freshman year that much more fulfilling.
Also — take AP classes. Even though I nearly pulled my hair out several times throughout junior and senior year, my AP scores are getting me out of bio, chem, math and foreign languages, plus a pre-requisite or two. It definitely depends on what school you wind up at, but for me, APs put me at a huge advantage.
Enough about school! New York for me is so much more than school!
(Just casually posing with the queen herself: BEYONCÉ!!!!!!!)
One thing about me: I’m a huge explorer. I’m not into parties — like at all — so back in Connecticut, I’d have to work hard and be creative in order to still keep myself occupied. New England is beautiful, but after a while, road trips to Frank Pepe’s pizza and late-night drives around reservoirs get old.
The opposite is the case here. You can never run out of things to do in New York. I’ve heard that a lot of NYU first-years don’t leave Greenwich Village…which just makes me laugh, because in my first three weeks here, I’ve been all over the place. How can you stay around Washington Square Park when there’s a whole city out there to conquer?!
…and I still have so much more to see and do. AH. At least I have four (well, maybe three, since I plan on studying abroad) to get out there into the wilds of the boroughs.
Oh, speaking of which, did I mention that my best friend Natalie goes to the same school as me?! For those of you who don’t know, I met Natalie online the summer before my sophomore year of high school, and we instantly clicked. The problem? She lived in Texas, I lived in Connecticut. Eventually, we had the opportunity to meet each other a year after we met, and it was love at first (actual) sight. When Natalie came up to visit a second time last summer, she decided that New York was the place for her and applied early decision to NYU. Life works in funny ways…since a few months later, I chose to go to school there, too. And now, here we are: same city, same major, same building. Go figure. It’s truly amazing.
I’m also super lucky that one of my best friends from home (who’s a sophomore) also goes here, as well as my cousin (who’s a senior). Community is so important wherever you go, and I truly scored with having a built-in network the second I got here.
I saved the best for last: NEW YORK CITY FOOD. Just look at these glorious dishes.
(I promise I have been eating insanely healthy in the dining halls otherwise…)
Well, that’s me! That’s my life! It’s time to head off to my 10:00 yoga class, since I don’t have class until 2:00 on Tuesdays.
See ya in a few, babes! xo
Tags: college, my life
August 17, 2016
So, I think I can say I have really and officially made it. Eleven days from today, I will begin my freshman year of college. I said high school to myself for a second, then proceeded to chuckle because thank goodness I’m not going back there. Shudder.
All of this change is coming. I can feel it in my bones. New people, new city, new classes, new professors, new yoga studio, new room, new eating habits, new study habits…what isn’t going to be new?! Yes, I’m a little nervous, but I’m way more excited than nervous. I’ve been waiting for this time for four years, and boy, I have never been so ready to spread my wings and leave.
One thing I’m really going to miss? My kitchen! Cooking (and baking!) have been my anchor throughout those four crazy years, and it feels a little weird that I’ll be leaving my anchor behind this year.
Well, get ready for a new Yes to Yummy mini series, entitled, “Small Kitchen, Big Dreams.” And by small kitchen, I mean my mini fridge and microwave. Y’all ready for some MUG CAKES?!?!?!?! How about some OATMEAL JARS?!?!?!?! DORM ROOM HACKS?!?!?!?! HELL YEAH!!! #COLLEGE!!!!!
Sorry. That was a little weird and extreme. I’ll show you a cupcake picture to get things back on track.
These were so good. My taste-testers agreed. According to my yoga teacher Emily, she took a bite of this cupcake in the car, expecting to save the rest for later. Needless to say the cupcake didn’t make it out of the parking garage.
There are oodles of lovely flavors and textures going on here. Chewy, crunchy, sweet, smooth, cinnamon-y…this cupcake is a perfect package for awesome. And you know what?! You can eat it for breakfast, too. Maybe leave off the frosting, maybe not. Choice is up to you.
Wanna make ’em? Well, you should!
Prep Time 35 min
Cooking Time 25 min
Total Time 1 hr
Yield 12-15 cupcakes (or muffins)
3/4 cup of vegetable oil or coconut oil, melted
1 cup of brown sugar
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons of baking soda
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon of ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
Pinch of ground nutmeg
4 large carrots, grated
1 cup of pecans, chopped
1/2 cup – 1 cup of raisins (depending on how much you like raisins!)
Coconut frosting, doubled if you like a generous dollop of frosting
Toasted coconut flakes, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with parchment liners and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs lightly, then add the oil, sugar, and vanilla extract. Beat well to thoroughly combine.
In a small bowl, sift together the dry ingredients, excluding the carrots, pecans and raisins. Stir to combine and then, 1/2 cup of a time, incorporate into the wet ingredients with a spatula.
Once all of the dry ingredients are added, pour in the carrots, pecans and raisins. Fold gently with a spatula combine and stop just when well-mixed. Don’t overdo!
Using an ice cream scoop or two large spoons, distribute the batter between the prepared muffin tins, stopping about 2/3 of the way up. (If you run out of space, no worries — just prepare another muffin pan or wait until your first batch is done.)
Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes depending on how hot or cold your oven runs.
Once fully cooked, let cool in the muffin tin for half an hour, then transfer to a cooking rack to come to room temperature.
Meanwhile, prepare the coconut frosting, if desired. Once the cupcakes are cool, frost them and decorate with toasted coconut flakes.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days — but best when eaten right away!
All right folks, guess it’s a “see you later” for now? I can’t wait to update you on all of the yummy foods I’ll eat in New York. Keep your fingers crossed that I’ll make friends and not accidentally wind up on a train bound for Hoboken!
Tags: baking, cake, carrots, coconut, cupcakes, dairy-free, delicious, dessert, frosting, healthy
August 2, 2016
All of those colors can only mean one thing: summer is here! Huzzah!
Look, I love summer. Don’t get me wrong. I love that it’s light out so late and the farmer’s markets are teeming with fresh fruits and vegetables. I love being able to practice yoga whenever I want and having the time to catch up on all of the pleasure reading I’ve missed over the course of high school. I love singing and playing my ukulele in the grass and listening to Iron & Wine and Bob Dylan in my room. But holy crap I want summer to be over.
As you know from my relentless complaining, senior year kinda sorta really sucked. Nothing really horrendous happened, but so many bad little things piling up one on top of another totally tanked my year. Sometimes, there’s bad energy that settles and you have to wait for it to pass. Life is a balancing act: you have periods of where lots of good things happen, periods where lots of icky things happen. It all evens out in the end, but it doesn’t feel that way when you’re in a moment of suckitude. And this year was one big moment of suckitude.
I was really ready to go at the end of my junior year, and unfortunately, senior year wound up being sloppy seconds. I made a bunch of mistakes and lost several of my closest friends, which stunk. I know people come and go, for life is an ebb and flow, but it felt like so many people were going this year. I felt disconnected, and the aha moment where everything clicked again never came. I like spending more time alone than with others, but there’s a difference between being alone and feeling lonely. And the latter feels yuck.
I don’t usually get embarrassed about things — hell, I came to school dressed as a giant tomato once — but for some reason, I feel ashamed about this year. I felt the claws of my old anxiety sinking back in as the embarrassment swirled in limitless circles in my head. I feel foolish, and I know I’ve been particularly unkind to myself recently, something I’ve struggled with for years. I want to shake it all away but it stays as I meditate and play my favorite songs by The 1975. I hate it. I thought I had moved on from this!
That’s the thing with anxiety. It’s two steps forward, four steps back. Sometimes it eats you. Sometimes you make sure it gets served. But when you’re in it, it makes you feel insecure, regretful, misunderstood. It pushes people away for you. It makes you think everyone hates you. But still, you soldier on and smile when you can, because you know you are better than your anxiety, and one day, the switch will flip and your thoughts will become rational again. It’s a practice.
I just want to be college Abby already. The Abby who, wearing a leather jacket with a yoga mat slung over her shoulder, runs into someone she knew from high school on the subway and grins because she’s a city girl now. The Abby who goes to concerts on Monday nights in Williamsburg. The Abby who carries a thoughtful little journal in which she writes existential haikus in Washington Square Park. I know that Abby is coming soon — 26 days, to be exact — but it all just seems so far away. And it’s frustrating.
You know what the best way to channel your frustrations is? Gnocchi!
I find the process of making gnocchi so therapeutic. It might seem tedious to some people, but to me, there’s nothing more relaxing than rolling out potato dumplings.
My dad and I attempted to make gnocchi for the first time when I was in fifth grade. Let’s just say our foray was not exactly successful. All I can remember is that the process was messy and confusing, and when we dropped our “dumplings” in boiling water, they disintegrated. Whoops. My mother, queen of cleaning, vowed that we would never make gnocchi again on account of such a disaster.
Years later, I tried again on my own, and this time, my gnocchi worked. (My mom actually liked them, to her surprise!) Over the past year or so, I’ve gradually been refining my gnocchi technique, learning how to put together the tastiest plate possible with a variety of colors and textures.
Most Italian chefs take a simple approach when it comes to serving gnocchi, usually serving the dish with pesto or a very simple cheese or tomato sauce. While there’s something to be said about showcasing the gnocchi pretty much on its own, I like serving these soft, chewy dumplings with lots of vegetables for some varied flavor and texture. I don’t like dishes that are all soft; rather, I like my meals to be crunchy and smooth and everything in between.
By pairing the gnocchi with roasted tomatoes, zucchini, corn, and basil, you not only get a ton of veggies in your dinner, but also the joy of having a party of flavor in your mouth. While I loved this combo, I look forward to making gnocchi later this summer with eggplant, peppers, and other tasty produce.
Gnocchi might seem intimidating, but don’t be scared! The first time you make it, I highly suggest setting aside an afternoon to conquer your project. You’ll feel much better with extra time on your hands.
Prep Time 1 hr
Cooking Time 1 hr
Total Time 2 hr
Yield 4-5 servings
For the gnocchi:
2 lb starchy baking potatoes (about 2 large baking potatoes)
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of pepper
1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
For the vegetables:
2 lb cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
2 large zucchinis or summer squashes, halved and sliced into half moons
1 head of basil, leaves finely slivered
2 cups of fire-roasted corn or 2 ears of grilled corn, kernels separated
1/4 cup of olive oil, divided, plus more to taste
2 teaspoons of salt, divided
1/2 cup of shredded parmesan cheese (optional)
For the gnocchi:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the potatoes directly on the oven rack and bake until tender, about 35 to 40 minutes.
Let the potatoes cool for just a few minutes upon removing from the oven, then peel off the skin and discard.
Using a ricer, food mill, or box grater, process the potatoes. Dust a clean workspace with plenty of flour and spread the riced/grated potatoes in a thin, even layer atop the flour. Let cool.
Meanwhile, beat together the egg, 1 teaspoon of salt, pepper, and nutmeg in a small bowl. Once the potatoes are cool, form them into a mound and make a small hole in the center. Pour the egg mixture into the hole and, using a large fork or your hands, incorporate the egg into the potato.
Pour flour in, 1/2 cup at a time, until a slightly sticky dough begins to form. (I highly recommend using a dough scraper to incorporate all of the flour!) Towards the end, add the 1/4 cup of cheese. If you feel the dough is too sticky, add more flour — but don’t go overboard!
Remove the dough ball and re-dust the workspace with plenty of flour. Using a sharp knife or dough scraper, cut the dough ball into six equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, then roll the ball into a log about 1/2 inch wide. Cut the log into 1 inch long rectangles.
Gently roll and squish each rectangle so it’s a decent-looking dumpling. A lot of people roll the gnocchi against a fork to create ridges, but that’s too fussy for me, so I just leave them as is. It saves time in an already labor-intensive recipe.
Repeat the process with the remaining dough balls. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper and place the gnocchi atop them until you’re ready to boil them.
For the veggies:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease two large baking sheets with olive oil. On one sheet, toss the tomatoes with the garlic, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and 1 teaspoon of salt. On the other sheet, toss the zucchini half moons with the other 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of salt. Roast both in the oven until the zucchini is golden-brown and the tomatoes begin to bristle, about 25 to 30 minutes. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the gnocchi, 1/4 of the batch at a time, and remove from the pot with a slotted spoon when each dumpling floats to the top. Place the cooked gnocchi in a large bowl.
Once all of the gnocchi have finished cooking, add the roasted vegetables, corn, cheese, basil, and a little drizzle of olive oil to taste. Toss together and add a little salt and/or pepper, if necessary. Serve immediately.
Here’s to potatoes, vegetables, and letting go to move forward. See you soon, loves. <3
Tags: Allergy friendly, delicious, dinner, gnocchi, Italian, nut-free, pasta, roasting, summer, tomatoes, vegetarian
July 17, 2016
Hello friends! I have pulled another disappearing act on you. I know, I know, this is like the tenth bazillion time this year, but hey, what can I say? Senior year keeps you busy. At least it’s over now. (Thank goodness! No more high school ever! Balloons!)
For my graduation, my wonderful parents whisked me off to the land of beautiful carbohydrates — Italy — for twelve days. A foodie since my elementary school days, I’ve always wanted to go, intrigued by the promise of a country filled with every type of bread and pasta imaginable. And don’t get me started on the gelato daydreams. (You know ice cream is my kryptonite!)
My expectations were beyond fulfilled. I’m surprised I’m not a 350 pound bowling ball right now from all of the delicious goodies I ate from the Veneto to Tuscany to Cinque Terre.
We first arrived in Venice, our first destination, via water taxi, which was awesome. No better way to shake the airplane blues than a clear, sunny sky and the wind blowing in your hair!
For lunch, I demanded pizza. Of course. Being the veggie queen I am, I opted for a vegetarian pizza loaded with squash, onions, and eggplant.
Damn. I love pizza. This phrase will be uttered countless more times over the course of this post.
After wandering around Venice, we stopped for some gelato on the way back to our hotel…
…did I mention how amazing apricot turmeric gelato is?! Seriously. What a killer flavor combination.
For dinner, we went to this adorable restaurant on a canal called La Zucca, which specialized in veggie-centric food.
This asparagus and zucchini lasagna we split as a starter was simply divine, as was the chocolate-hazelnut semifreddo we had for dessert.
If I hadn’t been in public, I would’ve picked up the plate and licked it clean. Sometimes I do consider chocolate the most important thing in my life.
After another lovely day in Venice filled with canal traversing, alley exploring, and yes, more gelato, we departed for Tuscany, stopping en route in Bologna for a stretch and some lunch.
While Bologna is known for its meaty specialties, it actually has fantastic gelato, too. Out of all of the frozen treats we ate on our trip, this was #1. (And believe me — I consumed a tremendous amount of gelato.)
La Sorbetteria Castiglione, you stole my heart. I had white chocolate with caramelized bits and coffee/mascarpone with chocolate-covered coffee beans in a cup cone. Genius. Amazing. Much wow. (Also, I saw a sign in the shop saying they were opening a location in — you guessed it — New York City. Our love was meant to be.)
For the next six days, we puttered around Tuscany, visiting towns big and small all over. The hotel we stayed at was gorgeous, with a beautiful nighttime colors against the cypress trees.
Now, a smattering of nibbles and photographs from the Tuscan portion of the trip. Here’s some tasty food served at our hotel…
Some scenes from Florence…
And a few other shots from around the countryside (plus some pizza)…
(I clearly need a Vespa. Can someone get me one? Please?)
After six gorgeous days in Tuscany, we hit the road again for Cinque Terre, stopping on the way in Lucca for a stroll and some chow. (And by chow, I of course mean more gelato.)
(I clearly need a Vespa for every outfit. Maybe one day when I take over the world.)
We stayed in Monterosso al Mare in Cinque Terre, which was picturesque. European beach towns > American beach towns, at least in my snobbish opinion.
I had my favorite pasta dish of the trip our first night in Monterosso. Seated at a table by the sea, I was brought an enormous skillet filled with penne pasta, seafood, tomatoes, garlic, herbs, and wine. Can you say HEAVEN?!
The next morning, we hiked the trail from Monterosso to Vernazza, the next town over. PHEW. Can you say steep? I don’t think I’ve ever sweat so much in my life, and that’s saying something. (Have you ever taken an ashtanga class in August with no air conditioning and fifty other people in a small room? Serious competition here.) The views were incredible, though. And somehow, my milkmaid braids held up. Good job, hair.
Here’s me in all of my sweaty potato glory, and Vernazza, where I promptly proceeded to jump into the ocean in all of my clothes. (This will not be pictured, hehe.)
From Vernazza, we took the train to the remaining three towns in Cinque Terre. The highlight for me was of course the food. We had scrumptious fried seafood in Riomaggiore and I, being the diehard foodie I am, took the train all the way back to Vernazza just to try some gelato I had seen there previously. (I will do anything for food.)
(It was worth it.)
Cinque Terre was so beautiful…
The following morning, we departed for Pisa, where of course I had to take some insanely dorky selfies…
…and we returned to the U.S. the following day (cries).
Italy was freaking fantastic. I can’t wait to document more of my adventures next year and beyond. 🙂
Tags: adventures, Italy, my life, travel
June 1, 2016
Food! Glorious food!
It feels like I’ve barely had time to cook lately. The past six months or so, I’ve significantly upped my yoga practice, so I’ve been dashing off to afternoon or evening classes almost every day. When I get home, I’ll snack on whatever fruits and veggies I can find rather than cooking an elaborate meal. While I love yoga — I am training to become a teacher this summer and fall, after all — I do miss my daily ritual of preheating the oven and heating pans with olive oil.
Sometimes, though, a free morning or night will present itself, and I’ll get roasting, bake something, or make a yummy breakfast like these pancakes!
After AP exams are over, most seniors at my high school go on internship — meaning we’re free from the confines of school to go out into the community and do something worthwhile. As for me, I’m currently interning at the local newspaper, building up my writing repertoire before heading off to college.
I know what you’re thinking: “Abby, I thought you were all about food! Why are you working at a newspaper?!” Well, I ain’t no one trick pony. Yes, I like to cook (and eat, cough) but I also love to write, and do photography, and do yoga, and learn about history, and draw, and do crafts, and do music and…
…okay, I’ll stop. The point is that I like lots of things, and as a teenager especially, I think it’s really important to get experience in lots of different areas in order to be the most well-rounded adult possible. Also, since I might want to pursue food writing as a possible career, this gives me good practice on the journalistic side of things.
What’s so nice about internship is that there’s no homework. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have anything to do for school in the afternoon and evening. Free time is glorious. I’ve finally had time to read books (I read Walden — one of the most amazing pieces of literature ever) and have started teaching myself how to play ukulele. It’s so nice to sit on my bed every night and strum and sing away, not having to worry about waking up at the buttcrack of dawn the next morning to suffer beneath the weight of tests and study guides and worksheets.
Now I just have to graduate. Eighteen days from today, baby. I can’t wait to decorate my cap. It’s going to be purple and sparkly and have Grumpy Cat and Pusheen on it. It will be glorious.
So yeah. Pancakes. Pancakes are almost as fantastic as escaping four years of high school. Especially pancakes with bananas and chocolate chips.
What’s the secret to chewy, fluffy pancakes? Baking powder. Lots of it. A tablespoon seems excessive, but trust me, you need it. Nothing is sadder than a flat pancake.
So, are you ready to how to make these marvelous breakfast delights?
Prep Time 15 min
Cooking Time 5 min
Total Time 20 min
Yield 12 pancakes
1 1/2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour (feel free to substitute with all-purpose or gluten-free flour)
1 heaping tablespoon of baking powder
2 tablespoons of sugar
Pinch of salt
1 cup + 1/2 cup of unsweetened vanilla soy milk
2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed
3 tablespoons of canola oil
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 ripe bananas, sliced thinly into rounds
1/3-1/2 cup of mini dark chocolate chips
In a large bowl, sift and whisk together the flour, baking soda, sugar, and salt. Set aside.
Pour 1 cup of soy milk into a measuring cup. Add the vinegar and ground flaxseed, and whisk vigorously with a fork to combine. Let sit for five minutes to congeal slightly.
Pour the milk/vinegar/flaxseed mixture into the center of the dry ingredients. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of soy milk, oil, and vanilla, and use a spatula to fold everything together. Stop when no clumps remain — don’t go any further!
Using the spatula, stir in the bananas and chocolate chips. Again, be careful not to over-fold. Cover the bowl with a dish towel and let the batter set for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a nonstick pan over medium heat. Do this at least five minutes prior to pouring in any batter — you want the pan to be hot!
Using a 1/4 cup measure, spoon rounds of batter into the pan. Don’t overcrowd — I found that two individual scoops was best. Cook for 4 minutes, or until the top begins to harden slightly, bubbles form, and the bottom is golden brown. Gently flip, and continue cooking until no longer liquid in the center, about 2-3 minutes.
Remove and repeat with the remaining batter.
Serve hot with maple syrup, jam, and/or peanut butter, or store in an airtight container and reheat in a toaster for later consumption.
What are your favorite pancake add-ins? Leave me a comment here or on Facebook and let me know! :)
Tags: Allergy friendly, bananas, breakfast, chocolate, dairy-free, delicious, easy, healthy, nut-free, pancakes, vegan