October 17, 2012

Last Day!

Today is my last day at the Albany Damien Center and I can honestly say that I have never been happier to leave a job!  Professionally, the last eight months have been rough.  Needless to say, I am happy to be moving on.  The next four days will be spent relaxing, catching up on TV shows, shopping, going to appointments and cooking delicious food.  I start at PRA on Monday and I already have my travel schedule for the next month - New York City, Austin, Texas and Denver, Colorado!  New job here I come!

On to bigger and (much) better things!

October 16, 2012

A Weekend in NYC

This weekend I went to New York City to meet up with my mom and sister!  My mom and sister LOVE the city and since Johanna will be heading out of the country for two years soon they wanted to come up again before she left.  This was also the perfect time for my mother to meet a certain someone and his daughter!  After taking the train down I met up with my mom and sister and we headed to the lower east side for an amazing felafel and some hummus.
Awesome lunch at Mamoun's Falafel Restaurant
After lunch we walked through Chinatown and the Bowery and headed to the South Street Seaport where we walked around, saw the sites and got tickets to a Broadway show!
The bridges from the South Street Seaport

Many many ships!
After the Seaport my sister was on a hunt for cupcakes at Sweet Revenge, a place that serves gourmet cupcakes and pairs the cupcake with an appropriate beer or wine selection.
Sweet Revenge in NYC
Pumpkin spice cupcake!  Delicious!
Later that night we headed to Broadway to see the play 'Peter and the Starcatcher' (but not before grabbing some burgers at Shake Shack, eating in Time Square and going to the M&M store) which tells the story of how Peter Pan came to be (as well as Tinkler Bell, Captain Hook and Wendy).  It was FUNNY and really entertaining!
Peter and the Starcatcher!
The next morning (Saturday) we headed to a enormous flea market and then back down to the half price ticket booth at South Street Seaport to buy Broadway tickets.  It was a LONG line but I ended up scoring great seats to Phantom of the Opera!  (My mom and sister opted for 'Bring It On: The Musical').  Then it was back up town to meet up with the second part of our weekend crew.  After the meeting Asian noodles were had, Central Park was walked, FAO Schwarz was viewed and the most amazing cupcakes were bought at Crumbs!
Hello most amazing cupcake in the world!  Are you noticing a cupcake trend?
After a quick rest we met up for some NY pizza and hit up the M&M store again.  Then it was off to Broadway to see the longest running show in Broadway history!  I saw Phantom of the Opera when I was 13 and seeing it again at almost 26 was definitely a different experience; and thanks to our seats (5 rows from the stage - last time I sat way back in the balcony) I got an entirely different perspective of the show!
P. Diddy in Time Square
Phantom of the Opera!
The next morning we ate at Ellen's Stardust Diner which is a diner located on Broadway where the wait staff is essentially waiting to be perform on Broadway - they are all aspiring Broadway performers and they sing show tunes while they serve and take your order - pretty cool!  After breakfast we headed to the 9/11 Memorial.  I had reserved (free) tickets the day before and it took us about 20 minutes to get through security and snake through line to the memorial.  Once inside we walked around the two pools and saw the survivor tree.  There is still a lot of construction going on and the museum has yet to open but it was still great to see - a must visit if traveling to NYC.  
Walking into the 9/11 Memorial
South pool of the Memorial
Freedom Tower - still under construction
Freedom Tower and the surrounding reconstructed buildings
After the viewing the Memorial we did some shopping at the Century 21 department store (I found a great and super discounted Nine West purse) and then headed up to the Chelsea Market, which was probably one of my favorite parts of the trip!  Chelsea is where the Food Network is located and the Market is awesome - it has everything - bakeries, kitchen stores, seafood, coffee, sandwiches - EVERYTHING!  I had the BEST lobster bisque soup and fresh made sushi.  I wish I had taken some pictures but I was too busy exploring - and eating!  After the market we headed up to the hotel and then to Grand Central to catch the Metro-North back to Poughkeepsie followed by the drive back to Albany.  

It was a great weekend and hopefully we can go back to the city sometime soon to see another show, explore some more neighborhoods and museums and of course hit up the Chelsea Market again!
Gotta love NBC!
And Matt Lauer says hi!

October 9, 2012

Copy Cat 'Panera' Broccoli & Cheddar Soup

Sundays mean relaxing, football, football treats/appetizers and a delicious dinner (and in the case of this past Sunday - a good workout at the YMCA and work clothes shopping)!  Anyway, I had been eyeballing this recipe for a while now and I figured Sunday was the day and who doesn't Panera's Broccoli & Cheddar soup?  It turned our awesome and was pretty easy to make!

Copy Cat Panera Broccoli & Cheddar Soup 

6 tablespoon melted butter
1 medium onion (chopped)
1/4 cup flour
2 cups half-and-half cream
2.5 cups chicken broth
1 large head (approx.) of fresh broccoli (chopped)
1 cup carrot (chopped)
8 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese  
Salt and pepper (to taste)

Chop the onion and melt the butter in a large pot ~ Sautee the onions until they are translucent ~ Stir in the flour ~ Add the half and half and mix until smooth ~ Add the chicken broth - bring to boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes ~ Chop the fresh broccoli and carrots and shred the cheese ~ Once the soup base has thickened add the broccoli and carrots and heat on low (covered) for about 20 minutes ~ Transfer the soup mixture to the food processor and blend until the veggies are chopped and the soup is smooth (you can also use an immersion blender) ~ Return the soup to the pot and add the cheese ~ Heat and serve with bread (I used a baguette).


October 8, 2012

Monument Mountain

Saturday we braved the chilliness and what seemed like imminent thunder storms and headed over to Great Barrington, Massachusetts to hike Monument Mountain!  We lucked out because while it looked like it was going to rain all day it only sprinkled a few times throughout the hike!  I really wanted to get in at least one more hike before the cold weather really sets in and with the leaves changing I figured this would be a pretty hike - I was right!  If I could use one word to describe our hikes so far the one up Overlook Mountain would be 'steep' while Monument Mountain would be 'rocks'!  There were rocks the entire way up, at the summit and the entire way down.  The hike took about 2.5 hours round trip and was a good little workout.  This mountain also has historical significance - Nathanial Hawthorne and Herman Melville often hiked Monument Mountain and it was there, while caught in a storm that they sought shelter in a cave and had discussions and imagined stories that would later lead to the writing of Moby Dick.  Here are some pictures of the hike with narrative captions!

Pre-hike car ride ... I may have been a little bored.
At the base of Monument Mountain!
This way!
Inscribed rock about halfway to the peak - stating that this area was preserved so that all in the Berkshire's may enjoy it.
Awesome view from the (almost) summit.
Chilling at the top of a mountain.
After spending some time at the peak we hiked to Devil's Pupit!
Devil's Pulpit - we were HIGH!
Adam and Devil's Pulpit.
After the hike we headed into Great Barrington for lunch and found an awesome cafe named Gypsy Joynts!  Their menu was INTENSE, a total hippie eatery with some serious charm.  We order some post hike beers (and water) and I looked at the menu for what seemed like forever trying to decide.  I ended up getting the 'Gonzo Burger' which was a 100% farm raised burger topped with veggie chili, sour cream and avocado on a homemade focaccia - it was delicious! 
Everything tastes better when served in a major jar!
BAM!  So much food - and so delicious!
After lunch we walked around Great Barrington, which is such a cute little town - hit up the local candy store and stopped in Stockbridge, Massachusetts - another cute walkable town, before heading back to Albany for the night!
Seen in Great Barrington - hahaha!
The hike was a lot of fun and I love exploring new towns and trying out different restaurants.  I'm already looking forward to next spring when we can start hiking again - but in the meantime it's time to gear up for cold weather, cross country skiing and snow shoeing season!

October 7, 2012

Roasted Red Pepper & Goat Cheese Alfredo

Holy deliciousness!  The other day I was trolling 'Pinterest' for some new recipes ideas and I came across this - Roasted Red Pepper & Goat Cheese Alfredo and I knew I had to give it a try!  Not only was it delicious but it was also 'relatively' easy to make.  On Thursday I took a trip to Trader Joe's to get all the ingredients - Trader Joe's has an awesome cheese selection and then I anxiously waited for Friday night so I could start cooking (yes - I couldn't wait to start making this dish!).  This was the first time I had roasted my own red peppers and I think the homemade roasting made all the difference!  Here's the ingredients ...

Roasted Red Pepper & Goat Cheese Alfredo

2 whole red bell peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup fat free half & half
4 oz. garlic & herb goat cheese
2/3 cup grated parigiano reggiano cheese
1/2 lb. linguine (cooked to al dente)
salt & pepper (to taste)

Start by roasting the red peppers - place the red peppers on a foil lined pan, preheat the oven to 500 degrees and roast the peppers for approximately 25 minutes.  Once they are finished roasting place tin foil over the peppers to allow them to cool and shrivel.  Cook the pasta!

Pre - roast
Post - roast
Next - chop the onions and garlic and then sautee them in the olive oil for about 7 minutes.  Once the onions are translucent and the garlic is starting to brown stir in the half and half.  Add the goat cheese and allow the cheese to melt.  While the cheese is melting peel and de-stem the roasted red peppers.

Peeled roasted red peppers!
 Next - add the roasted red peppers and the parigiano reggiano cheese to the pot.

Adding the roasted red peppers to the cheese mixture.
Next - it's time for the food processor or an immersion blender!  I have neither but I am lucky to know someone who has a food processor.  Pour the roasted peppers and the cheese mix into the food processor.

Sauce and pepper mixture in the food processor.
 Blend the peppers and cheese mix and then return to the pan and allow to reheat.

Post food processor!
Lastly, add the pasta (I was only cooking for two so I had enough sauce to freeze for later) and mix!  I also grilled a small chicken breast to go with the pasta.

The dish was delicious!  Definitely a winner and something that I will undoubtedly make again!

Happy cooking!

October 4, 2012

Pizza & Politics

Yesterday was the first presidential debate and in honor of the event we had pizza!  It was politics and pizza night!  Since Trader Joe's opened in Albany I have been going there frequently and they have the BEST pizza dough and sauce!  I normally make a cheese and/or pepperoni pizza (with fresh mozzarella) but this time I decided to make a Hawaiian pizza!  We were too busy eating the pizza after it was finished baking and I completely forgot to take pictures, but are some before pictures!

Hawaiian pizza!
Pepperoni and Hawaiian!
They were delicious!  Yay for pizza and politics!

October 2, 2012


Life has been somewhat stressful lately!  Between 4:15 AM wake up calls to do 'Insanity' workouts with my neighbor or go to spin class, tons and tons of client data input, meeting with ALL of my clients before I leave and preparing for a very hastily scheduled site visit I have been busy!  Not to mention that I seem to be going round for round with my current supervisor on a number of issues.  Either way - I have 10 more days of work until my four day 'vacation' and then the start of my new career at PRA!  I cannot wait - both for my new job and to be finished with the ADC.  But in the mean time I am hanging in there, wrapping things up and trying to enjoy the last few days with some of my favorite clients!