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Poolville Country Store, NY

As mentioned many times before, going to school in upstate New York leaves much to be desired in terms of culinary experiences. On the one hand, I save a considerable amount of money. On the other hand, it’s easy to see how students can subsist on Ramen noodles.

However, I got a chance to visit the Poolville Country Store, a bed and breakfast that serves way more than just breakfast. As a birthday treat, my parents came to visit and took me to this quaint spot for lunch. They specialize in locally-sourced foods, and most of the menu items were vegetarian or pescetarian, both plusses in my book. (Although, it does make one wonder how you get fresh “local” seafood when you are hundreds of miles from the ocean.)

We were first served a few squares of blueberry crumb cake. Buttery, rich goodness.

Unsure of whether or not it was lunch time or breakfast time, I settled on savory tastes despite my two cups of coffee and this blueberry treat. We ordered polenta fries, smothered in gorgonzola cheese on a bed of mixed greens. Salty but so fabulous, this dish makes me want to experiment more with polenta. The shrimp and vegetable rolls were also fabulous, with a smattering of wasabi aioli that was flavorful. My only complaint was that the menu spelled “shrimp” incorrectly.My caesar salad was standard, though the (single) anchovy on top was appreciated. It’s unfortunate there weren’t more anchovies to really bring out the flavor. I had a large bowlful of lobster bisque which was delicious, though salty. Lastly, a taste of this crab cake made our meal complete. Moist, tasty rounds of crab served with lemon aioli were fantastic. All in all, a pleasant, filling, delicious experience…particularly for upstate New York.

 

A Long Run, and Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Pretzel Bars

Coming home from Mexico, with only four weeks until the Boston Marathon, I vowed to eat more protein, vegetables, and whole grains. I was doing a tremendous job, eating hard-boiled eggs, hummus, vegetable-filled sandwiches, and Greek yogurt. What loomed over my head all week was my 21 mile training run. I carbo-loaded on Thursday night, eating bowls of cereal instead of my vegetables (I know how my digestive system would act if I ate my traditional vegetables and legumes right before running 21 miles). Then, I ran and ran and ran and ran. Until my legs felt like goop, my sweat caked to my forehead, and my  body felt arthritic. Success!

I counteracted this extreme exercise with an extreme dessert, as a gift to my friend who vigilantly held water for me during the run.  My friends gathered around the pan of gooey, crunchy, sweet and salty masterpiece. The pretzels take this cookie bar over the top.

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Pretzel Bars

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted

1 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 tsp vanilla

12 oz. bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

12 oz. bag peanut butter chips

1 1/2 cups mini pretzel twists, chopped.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a square baking pan with cooking spray.

Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. In a large bowl, combine sugar and butter. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Beat in dry ingredients. Fold in half a bag of chocolate chips, half a bag of peanut butter chips, and chopped pretzels. Spread batter in pan, press down. Bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown. While still hot, sprinkle bars with additional chocolate chips and peanut butter chips, as well as pretzels. Place in oven for a minute so that chocolate and peanut butter melt. Cool completely, then cut into squares.

Puerto Vallarta (and some unbelievable food)

ImageAs you may already know, I spent the past week in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The trip, my first to Mexico, exceeded my expectations. Of course, my boyfriend and I were constantly comparing the place to other trips we’ve been on to Nicaragua and Bali. Each and every place has a beauty of its own, both in terms of landscape, people, and food culture. Thus, it’s impossible to compare the trips. Once again, I ate my way through the vacation and boy was it worth it.ImageImage

The best meal we ate was at El Andariego. Steps from the city center, this restaurant certainly gives patrons both quantity and quality. The mural walls are funky, but the best part, other than the food, was the incredible service. Our server, Jesus, made us guacamole at the table. He also served us a free taste (or two) of Mexico’s famous tequila…

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I ordered the Fish Tacos, which were flavorful thanks to the addition of pineapple. Pickled onions, rice, a delicious sweet corn bread, beans, and avocado crème were served on the side. My stomach was in heaven.

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My boyfriend ordered the Chicken Fajitas, which in his words were “the best fajitas” he’s ever had.

Evidence of this claim are shown by the demolition he did to his meal:

After a week filled with deep-fried cheese enchiladas, mounds of tortilla chips, fruity drinks and lounging on the beach, I am thankful that I am training for a marathon…

My Grandmother’s Favorite Cookies

My grandfather had a passion for genealogy, and I believe most everyone in my family was affected by his zest for family heritage. He kept a diary for most of his life, something that most people can’t say they have done. I was always intrigued by family histories, particularly that of my maternal grandmother. Born in Egypt but of Russian heritage, she immigrated to the U.S when she was 18. I’ve always admired her independence, perhaps because, like me, she is an only child. During the holidays, my mother told me my grandmother would be visiting. She also hinted that my grandmother’s favorite cookies were Russian Tea Cakes.

These treats also go by Mexican Wedding Cakes, so I’m not sure whether to attribute the recipe to one culture or another. However, the combination of butter, sugar, finely chopped nuts and some vanilla is ubiquitously delicious. I used good ol’ Betty Crocker’s recipe, which you can find here.

My grandmother did not realize I had made her these cookies on Christmas Day until my aunt ran into the living room exclaiming how amazing these cookies were. I’ve never seen my grandmother leap out of her seat as quickly as she did, particularly considering that my grandmother claims she would prefer a piece of bread at the end of dinner, rather than a sweet.

The way the cookie melts in your mouth is surely why so many people commented on these bites of goodness. Not to mention, that messy powdered sugar that remains on your lips after taking the first bite is a cute look.

Easy Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Many times when I was little, I would try baking cookies on my own and forget and/or mix up ingredients. Take for example the time I filmed my friend and I making chocolate chip cookies, as if we were on a cooking show. We left out the vanilla extract. There’s the time I put in baking soda rather than powder in a recipe. And then there’s the big “no-no” of melting butter in cookie recipes.

Using stiff butter is the proper way to make cookie dough, regardless of how difficult it is to cream. One of those $200 pink KitchenAid stand mixers is what I lust after. Unfortunately, as a college student, I don’t have a stand mixer or even a hand mixer, nor are my arms and willpower strong enough to cream butter and sugar by hand. This is when cookie bars come into the picture.

Like brownies, bar cookies typically involve (cooled) melted butter, whether in the microwave or on the stovetop, in order to add consistency to the batter. The recipe I used to make these devilishly good Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars is essentially a cookie recipe, but suitable to be baked in one flat sheet. I avoided an arm workout and got to enjoy the taste of chocolate chip cookies. As if the mention of not having to cream butter is enough, let me reiterate how simple this recipe is. If you need a dessert in a flash, this is it. I used a good brand of chocolate chips, which I recommend for taking these bars up a notch.You of course could add nuts, other kinds of chocolate, or even dried fruit.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 x 8 pan.

Mix butter with sugars. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Pour into greased pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.