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A Very Springy Xmas in NYC

It was mid December and we realized that we had nothing happening for an entire week. Sadly, The Kid didn't want to miss any school (WHO IS THIS PERSON??) so Shack and I booked our trip late Friday night and flew to NYC early Sunday morning. No time to plan or overthink.

We landed to find ourselves sweltering in our winter coats. The first thing we did was check into our hotel and ditch the coats and set off to explore the city in nothing more than long sleeves two weeks before Christmas Day. We spent the entire day wandering midtown, making our way towards Central Park where we rented bikes and rode through it, again WITHOUT COATS, until the sun set. Dinner consisted of a couple stops in Little Italy for meatballs and pasta and then a third place for espresso and dessert. Even late at night, the weather was balmy and perfect for exploring the magical wonderland that is New York at Christmas without having to brave the cold and snow. 

We spent a day in Brooklyn, hipster hunting until we realized that Shack looked exactly like all the men we were stalking in Williamsburg. The last straw was the big graffitied wall depicting a hipster French Bulldog that was wearing the same outfit as Shack. If you find yourself there, eat breakfast at Egg. It was so delicious, despite the preciousness of serving it with Organic Heinz Ketchup and a lovely morning was spent cafe hopping and vintage shopping alongside all of Shack's bespectacled, plaid shirt wearing, cuffed jeans with a pork pie hat sporting, brogue styling brethren.

The one new treat was our ferry ride from Williamsburg back to Manhattan, something neither of us had ever done before. The city was enveloped in a heavy layer of fog, making the skyline even more magical than usual and we ended up staying on the ferry for an entire loop, finally getting off in midtown, near our hotel. I think, apart from our rental bikes in Central Park, this was the best $6 bucks we spent the entire time.

It may lose me my seat at the cool kid's table, but I love Times Square. So sue me. Basically, we spent three solid days on foot, walking from the financial district back up to Central Park and back again. Because our trip was so last minute, there was no chance of getting into any of the hot restaurants or bars so we just stopped when we were hungry, pressure free. Some of the food we ate was amazing (Uncle Boons, thanks Ivy Lam) and some of it was not (Les Halles - Mr Bourdin would not have approved of the service or the french onion soup) but, for once in our lives, our trip was not about the food.

Good shoes, a few bucks in your pocket, empty bellies and open hearts - it's all you really need here.

On our very last day we decided, since we only had carry on bags, that we would take the Metro to Laguardia. We got off in Queens at 74th/Roosevelt Avenue to transfer onto to a bus and, since we had lots of time, went for a walk.

Why, oh why have we not done this before? Taco trucks every half a block, more Mexican restaurants than you can shake a stick at and looked like the New York I fell in love with at the movies. Our next trip will be a borough crawl and we plan to skip Manhattan, for the most part, and start explore the rest of the city, starting with Queens.
amazing tacos at Taqueria Coatzingo in Jackson Heights
I'm nothing if not colourful

Sometimes, travelling
as a blogger is exhausting, both for the blogger and the bloggers travelling companions.

You feel like you are required to eat in the hottest restaurants, take a bazillion photos of your food, write everything you eat down in your notebook, waste hours on your phone researching where you should be eating next instead of just wandering around, having a bite here and there, taking lots of pictures and just being somewhere with someone. This trip was just about being in NYC with my guy. This is something I will strive for in 2016.

Happy New Year.

Oh, if you want to look at the rest of my photos, click here 

Squash Havarti Turnovers and A Great Arla Dofino Giveaway for New Year's Eve

Just in time for NYE, I am sharing not only a recipe for a great appetizer with you that will wow your friends and solidify your reputation as an amazing host, but a chance to win $25 worth of Arla Dofino Harvarti, a bamboo cheeseboard and cute, ceramic dry erase cheese markers.

I make no secret of my love for frozen puff pastry, especially during the holidays so if you don't have any in your freezer, you need to do something about that STAT.  Come on, quick like a bunny - you still have a couple of days to get ready for New Years.

For this particular turnover, I chose to use the creamy harvarti because this appetizer required maximum melty creaminess and a mild flavour that would complement the savoury filling. For my cheese board, I went with the inferno (havarti packed with chipotle and habanero chili), smoked harvarti and roasted garlic. I would say that it was a close call but the inferno was the favourite at both of my Christmas parties with the smoked havarti running a very close second.

Okay, the winner won't get this package of cheesey goodness in time for NYE but that doesn't mean you can't make these gorgeous little turnovers for your celebration regardless of whether you are having an elegant Prosecco party for 10 or spending the night in your flannel pjs with Anderson Cooper - I don't judge.

I received compensation from Tres Stelle for coming up with a recipe using this cheese but, as always, my opinions are my own.

So, first, the giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Squash Havarti Turnovers

makes approx 18 turnovers

*1 buttercup squash, seeded, roasted, cooled and mashed
*1 sweet potato, cooked, cooled and mashed
1-2 tbls finely chopped, fresh sage plus whole, small leaves for the top of each pastry
1 tbls butter
1/2 leek, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
pinch kosher salt (approx 1/2 tsp)
a few grinds of black pepper
1 tsp sherry vinegar
a couple tbls of cherry jam, cranberry preserves or even fig jam
about 200 grams of creamy Dofino Havarti, cut into slices that are then cut into 1 1/2" pieces
2 sheets of thawed, frozen puff pastry (try to find one that is already rolled out like PC Butter Puff Pastry

1 egg beaten with a tbls of milk or water
pinch maldon salt

*to cook the squash, you can roast it (quartered, seeded, drizzled with olive oil and roasted at 400F for 1 hr), you can steam it, you can microwave, same goes for the sweet potato.) You just want to end up with the flesh from a cooked squash and one sweet potato, mashed smoothly (no skins of course).

Preheat the oven to 400F

Melt the butter in a small pan and saute the leeks and garlic for a few minutes until the leeks are soft. Pour the buttery leeks on top of the mashed squash/sweet potato, add the sage, sherry vinegar and a pinch of salt, a few grinds of pepper and stir to mix. Taste and adjust the salt and sage to your taste and set aside.

Grab one of your thawed but still very cold puff pastry sheets (leave the other piece in the fridge until you need it) and cut it into squares. I cut it into 9 pieces but you can make the pastries bigger or smaller if you like as long as you adjust the filling accordingly. If you can't find pre rolled out puff pastry, follow package directions to end up with a thinly rolled out rectangle but trust me, try to find the pre rolled stuff.

On each square, dollop on about 1 tsp of jam, top that with a heaping tablespoon of squash filling and then top that with a slice of cheese. Fold over the edge to form a triangle, use a fork to seal the edges, brush the whole thing with the egg wash and top with a tiny pinch of maldon salt and one, small, whole sage leaf.

Put your pastries onto a parchment lined baking sheet and cook for 18 minutes - don't stress out if some of the filling seeps out of the odd pastry - those will will end up being the tastiest.

The pastries are as great fresh from the oven as they are at room temperature.

An Instant Pot, Some Jackfruit and a Big Batch of Vegetarian Posole

Anyone who has read my blog, even casually, is probably aware that I have a couple of irrational fears when it comes to cooking and I am proud of the fact that I have worked to overcome these fears in the last few years, for the most part. It's not like I am deep frying every day now, but I do it when I have to and I not only can jam and stuff but I give the results to people I care about and nobody has died. Yet.

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