Archive for July, 2014

Unrecipe of the Week: Zucchini Pasta with Shrimp

July 30, 2014

On a summer evening, we’re looking for a meal that has it all: bountiful seasonal produce, great flavors and textures, and one that won’t leave us feeling overly full. When it doesn’t involve too much slaving over a hot stove, or heating up the house with the oven, it’s an added bonus.

Saturday night’s dinner fit the bill. Using zucchini as a base, with ripe tomatoes and fresh basil blanketing fresh Florida shrimp, it was as tasty as it was easy to prepare.

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Zucchini Pasta and Shrimp with Tomato Sauce and Basil Oil

For the “pasta”:

Using a spiralizer, cut 2 zucchini into noodles and set aside.

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Saute 2 cloves of garlic in olive oil. Add fresh tomatoes ( I prefer them peeled, but it isn’t necessary) cut into chunks, and a few fresh basil leaves. Season with salt and black pepper, and cook on a low heat until the tomatoes start to melt. Stir often until it is the consistency of a thick, chunky sauce. Add the zucchini noodles, and cook, tossing, for just a couple of minutes until the zucchini is cooked, but still crisp, and completely covered in the tomato sauce.

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For the shrimp:

Peel and devein the shrimp. Spread out on towels after rinsing to eliminate any extra moisture.

In the meantime, place a clove or two of garlic and a large handful of basil leaves into the work bowl of a food processor or blender and process until it is finely minced. With the machine running, drizzle in olive oil until the mixture emulsifies.

Place the shrimp on a cookie sheet, and brush them with the basil mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and broil or grill them for a couple of minutes until pink and opaque. Conversely, they can be sautéed in olive oil, adding the basil mixture at the end and coating the shrimp thoroughly.
Add them to the zucchini noodle mixture and toss. Serve in shallow bowls and enjoy!

photos: Indigo Jones

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Fixing Charred Baked Goods

July 29, 2014

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We’ve all been there: the bottom of the cookies or cake have burnt while the rest of it is perfectly fine.

No worries! Use a box grater, or a microplane zester to gently shave off the charred part.

The baked goods will be good to eat, and nobody will ever know about your little mishap!

photo: Glasshouse Images

Inspired Living

July 28, 2014

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As a frequent business traveler, I tend to encounter some of the same people working at my destinations. Whether it is the room service waiter, the taxi driver or the check in clerk, there is something pleasant and comforting about encountering a familiar and friendly face.

In one city, I rely on a taxi service to shuttle me from my hotel to the office and back. It is not uncommon for me to have the same drivers over and over again. In the 30 minute rides, we make idle small talk, and they all know me on a first name basis. They know a bit about my family and where I live, among other tidbits we share on our journey together.

This week, I had a unique and gratifying experience. I was greeted my one of my regular drivers and he immediately inquired as to my well being, and my family. After a few minutes of polite chit chat, he told me he had been on a health kick and had lost about 30 pounds since we last spoke. He attributed it to getting active, and eating healthier. He began cooking his own food, and gave up on junk. I congratulated him on his accomplishment, but I was unprepared for came next.

He said, “Chatting with you about healthy eating and your exercise regimen really inspired me. I decided after I dropped you off one day, it was time to get serious about my weight and my health.”

That really blew me away and made my day. In a week that I was feeling less than good about myself, I realized that our actions, however small can have an influence on others. We probably have an effect on people all the time, through the positive, and not so positive things that we do.

I am so happy to have been able to help this man change his life for the better, however inadvertently that may have happened.

Congratulations Bill the taxi driver! Keep up the good work and pay it forward!

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Chilling at Bedtime

July 21, 2014

 

d4jm9-331.jpgI love to sleep in a cold bedroom at night. I prefer to burrow under the covers, rather than have the room warm and toasty. While it can sometimes be a bone of contention , this article in the New York Times gives another, perhaps more compelling reason to turn the thermostat down at night.

Sleeping in a cooler room can alter the amount of brown fat our bodies carry.
Brown fat, which has been discovered in tiny amounts in the upper backs and necks of adults, is thought to have be metabolically active.  This healthy fat aids in   burning calories, maintaining core body temperature, and taking sugar out of the bloodstream.

Studies performed on healthy men showed that sleeping in a room cooled to 66 degrees, allowed their bodies to double their stores of healthy brown fat in just four weeks, and improved their insulin sensitivity.  When the same men slept in an 80 degree room for four weeks, their brown fat levels fell lower than they were at the onset of the study.

While the effects of these findings were minimal, it is interesting to note that subtle tweaks in temperature could offer small metabolic health boosts.

The original article can be found here.

photo: glasshouse images

Walking Papers

July 17, 2014

 

8034100025This summer, New York City will host 53 million tourists. While we love the international flare and the added income it brings to our fair city, we frankly hate the crowds who seem unable to keep up with the flow.

You know who you are. The groups of people, strolling along idly, side by side on the street, three or more abreast making it almost impossible to get past you. And we need to get past you. Please walk in clusters of no more than two, stick to the right side, and even better, keep up with the flow.

It’s called a sidewalk, not a stand there and gawk walk. If you wish to stop and look up at our lovely skyline, please step aside to do so. Same story with texting, photo ops and general rubber necking. We need to get past you.

1806700078As hard as it is to believe, we have places to go, people to see and things to do. This is why we need to get past you. While Chelsea Market is an amazing place, with all of it’s remarkable food shops and cool interior, some of us go there to buy our food. Step away from the produce, and let us shop. I mean, haven’t you seen arugula before? Ditto, fresh fish and other day to day delicacies that constitute our dinner. Feel free to act like a tourist in Times Square, Macy’s, and South Street Seaport. But when you are on our turf, try to act like a local, or at least be considerate of us.

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It’s proper to let  people off the train before boarding. If the train is crowded, please take your backpacks off and move your gigantic pieces of luggage out of our way so we can get on and off. Try not to block the doors so we don’t miss our stop climbing over your stuff, or worse yet, break a toe trying to navigate our way around it.

Walking is a frequently used mode of transportation for us locals. Think of walking, the way you would driving. Imagine the chaos if you and your friends all drove very, very slowly in a pack during rush hour, making it difficult to get around you. And what if you all just stopped suddenly to look at the sunset with out any warning to those behind you? Are you starting to get the picture?

And about getting the picture: Selfies, seriously? Here in the middle of the street? Now?

I think you get my drift. Enjoy your visit to the Big Apple!

 

*This has been a public service announcement from indigo jones. Thank you.

photos: Glasshouse Images

Chic Trackers

July 16, 2014

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Fitness tracking devices have been gaining prominence, and it seems many of the chicest women are sporting rubber wrist bands, to record their activity, calorie expenditure and even sleep cycles.

It certainly comes as no surprise that Fitbit, one of the early adopters of fitness tracking bracelets has teamed up with designer Tory Burch to create a line of fashionable jewelry with tracking technology.

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From colorful printed bands with Burch’s signature logo, to gold caged bracelets and pendants, these pieces are designed to house Fitbit’s “core”, which pops out of the original bracelet.

While Tory Burch is not the first to merge fashion and fitness, she certainly is the most high profile.
Watch for a flurry of activity around this concept as fashion firms and tech firms begin to collaborate on this type of product. It’s only a matter of time before Apple steps in and blows the competition out of the water.

pictures courtesy of Tory Burch.

Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Peeling Tomatoes

July 15, 2014

 

1635400438This time of year, I can’t get enough tomatoes. The current bounty is a far cry from the mealy, styrofoam-like tomatoes we have around here most of the time. These ripe, juicy, deep red beauties are full of flavor and vitamin C.

I love them raw, baked, sliced, diced and sautéed.  Sometimes, it’s nice to take the skin off, and cook them down to a thick, rich sauce, to pour over pasta, chicken or spiralized zucchini ribbons.

The easiest way to skin a tomato, or other fruits and vegetables with a thin skin and fleshy interior, is to drop them into a pot of boiling water. You only need to leave them in the water for a brief time; less than a minute, before the skin cracks.
Remove them with tongs, and place them in a bowl. The skin should come off easily, leaving you with a naked, but still very much intact tomato. Be careful not to leave them in the pot too long, as they will begin to cook, and eventually fall apart.

photo: Glasshouse Images

Spiralize Me!

July 14, 2014

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I am not a big fan of random kitchen gadgets, especially the plastic miracle machines that are the fodder of late night infomercials.  Yet, this little guy has me smitten!

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It’s called a spiralizer,and with a quick turn of a handle, it converts vegetables into long, noodle-like strands that give pasta a run for it’s money.

Tonight, we enjoyed zucchini noodles, quick sautéed and bathed in a sauce of garlic, basil, oil and fresh tomatoes, sprinkled with a little freshly ground Parmesan cheese. For a fraction of the calories, and far more nutritional value than it’s flour based counterpart, this was a fast and delicious meal that was whipped up in no time flat.

Try it! You’ll love it!

 

 

 

Dress Code Violated

July 10, 2014

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Getting dressed for an event used to be easy. People were expected to look appropriate, and those perameters were  clearly defined by the occasion. The casualization of America, as well as many other places around the globe, has served to make getting dressed more difficult.

Long ago, women never even thought to enter a place of worship with out a skirt or a dress, and stockings. Now,pants are not only permissible, but are often the norm.  Jeans have found their way into many churches, begging the question of appropriateness to many.

Jeans have become a mainstay in most people’s wardrobes, and fashion often dictates how they are worn. Men dress up jeans with open collared shirts and blazers. Women add heels and a dressier top for a night on the town. Jeans have become acceptable in many workplaces, restaurants and at social functions.

Shorts are an item that fashion has endorsed in recent seasons, with women wearing them back to crisp shirts, tailored jackets and chunky heels for a polished look that is suitable for many occasions and venues.

But what happens when those who are not fashion conscious decide that shorts or jeans are right for them?
Often, chaos and bad taste ensues. Shorts suddenly become too short, or too casual. What was once a “look” easily becomes sloppy, when shorts are paired with casual tee shirts and flip flops, or heaven forbid, Crocs.

Torn jeans are a big trend right now, but when placed in the wrong hands, they become a reckless, slovenly mess.

How do you enforce a dress code, when you can’t enforce good taste? The answer sadly, is that you can’t. If you want people to look “appropriate” you have to prevent them from making fashion faux pas with a stringent dress code.
I recently experienced this first hand, when I became stranded in Florida due to inclement weather at home.

I was lucky enough to be invited to a July 4th soiree at a country club, but discovered that I didn’t have anything in my bag that was deemed appropriate for the occasion.

My jeans, strategically torn by the designer, and paired with a printed silk top, hand knit flyaway sweater, a statement necklace and heels were on trend and in my opinion very pulled together and fashion right. Unfortunately, they did not meet the criteria of appropriatness  for this venue. Although I would have been the most fashionable one there in that outfit, I ran through the local mall, frantically searching for something to wear. I ended up with a white tee shirt, paired back to some other pants I had with me, and while I looked fine, I didn’t look chic. And for the most part, neither did anyone else.

It is sad that places need to have a specific dress code in order to ensure that people look “nice.” And even sadder when looking nice equates to looking bland. In this case, the dress code of “country club casual” meant white pants, a colored tunic length sweater or blouse, and gobs of makeup for the women. Pleated trousers, often white, worn back to collared shirts, were the uniform for the men.

Although cookie cutter, and as exciting as the canned peaches on the buffet table, everyone fit in, and met the social norms of the area.  Although it would have been completely disrespectful to my hosts to try to defy the dress code, I was a bit miffed that mediocrity trumped fashion sense. Yet, at the end of the day, it should be about the company, and not the clothes that make the evening a success.

What do you think about dress codes? Are they a nuisance, or a good way to make sure that everyone looks appropriate? Would showing up in a too short skirt, or an extremely low-cut blouse be better than jeans? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

 

photo: glasshouse images

Are You Smarter Than A NYC Kindergardener?

July 9, 2014

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Admissions into a good New York City kindergarden is more than just living in the right zip code. While New York does have it’s share of acceptable public elementary schools, just living in that school district does not always guarantee  admission. Overflow often leads to a less desirable school, driving many parents to elite private schools, and the city’s Talented and Gifted Programs (TAG), which require an admission process that rivals the rigor of the curriculum.

When our daughter, now 14, was testing and interviewing for school, the ERBs were the gold standard. At the time, it was almost impossible to help your child practice for the test, the content of which was elusive.

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Now, many schools are looking to disregard the ERB, as most of the children taking it ( at age 4 mind you) have been coached. The latest test on the scene is the AABL, or the Admissions Assessment for Beginning Learners, which is deemed to be more difficult, and “academic” than the previous one. Since it is taken on an iPad instead of being administered by a tester, it has a  lower cost: $65 vs. $568 for the old ERBs, which is leading experts to believe that even more parents will be inclined to pay to have their toddlers professionally prepped.

For those of you wondering how you might fare against a group of over-educated 4 year olds, you are in luck.

A sample test is available for the taking right here! CLICK TO TAKE THE TEST

Let us know how you do in the comments!

 


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