Posted by Krista on October 7, 2012
I don’t know how it happened. I was grocery shopping online and before I knew it, I had added six cups of this stuff to my virtual shopping cart. I think it had something to do with calories. These single serve puppies of “cheesy made easy” mac & cheese have only 220 calories and 4.5 grams of fat. That’s not so bad for someone on a diet.
They also include one packet of radioactive orange powder. TRIPLE CHEESE POWDER.
Just add water and microwave, so that’s nice. Easy. America, this is why you’re fat. Even at 220 calories.
Note instructions are very easy to follow. (Fill to this line!)
Once finished in the microwave, add the magical triple cheese orange powder. Stir.
Mmmm. Glommy nuclear waste!
The Verdict: Never again, although exceptions will be made when alcohol is involved.
Got a favorite mac & cheese recipe? Tell me!
Posted by Krista on October 6, 2012
Long-time readers will know I don’t cook much, but I do like picking up easy things here and there that I can add to my (very) limited repertoire. The latest addition? Zucchini Carpaccio, which Roam & Home introduced me to. The recipe comes from Eat This by Tyler Florence, an American TV chef. The dish is light but oddly filling. (Especially if you, uh, eat half of it.) And it has lemon in it, which makes it a no-brainer for this particular lover of all things LEMON.
Here’s Tyler’s recipe, courtesy of the Food Network.
2 medium zucchini
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 leek, white part only, sliced thinly
1/4 pound piece Parmesan
Fresh mint leaves, for garnish
Using a mandolin or a very sharp knife, slice zucchini into very thin rounds. (Roam & Home does long length-wise pieces.) Overlap zucchini disks in one layer on a plate; season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over the olive oil and lemon juice and scatter with leeks. Using a mandoline or a vegetable peeler, shave very thin slices of Parmesan and place them over leeks. (Another switch-up by Roam & Home: ricotta or some other sort of fresh cheese is also a nice choice.) Garnish with mint leaves. Serve immediately.
Posted by Krista on October 5, 2012
I gave up coffee for a while. But now I am back on the sauce. Especially now, TODAY. Because I’ve finally found decent replacements for my loves of London loves, Monmouth Coffee and Prufrock Coffee. My new Chicago loves are Dark Matter Coffee. And Big Shoulders Coffee. I’ll thank Wendy for Dark Matter — she laughed at one of my Starbucks trip one day and advised that I take myself to Do Rite for some Dark Matter. (They have a coffee called UNICORN BLOOD.) But I’ll give myself all the credit for “finding” Big Shoulders. (Not hard to find, right there at the corner of Chicago and Milwaukee.) I THINK I like Big Shoulders better. I think. But I will need some caffeine to decide for sure.
I particularly like the vibe at Big Shoulders. It’s all clean and neat and white, and they’ve got a big TV showing approaching train and bus times, which is awesome. You should go here. Take the bus!
P.S. I took this photo with my iPhone 5. It’s so awesome. I love it so much.
Posted by Krista on October 4, 2012
Does anyone really enjoy weighing themselves? I hope not. I have been forcing myself to do this more often. It’s painful. I hate it. I hate my scale and I hate exercising and I hate not eating carbs.
America has been bad to me. I don’t walk as much as I used to. The portion sizes are ridiculously huge, and everything is fried. I AM FRIED. I am tired and I am fried.
So I bought a new scale. Personal responsibility and all of that. And what I bought is the Fitbit Aria. You might remember I wrote about my love for my Fitbit pedometer recently. Well, now I have the scale too. So every morning, I wake up and I weigh myself and my weight and percentage body fat (!!!) automatically transmit to some big server in the sky somewhere and end up on Fitbit’s website.
And there is a reckoning.
I like the Fitbit Aria. A lot. If you too feel that America has made you fat, you should buy one. It’s not cheap — I got mine for $129 on Amazon — but right now, it’s worth it.
Posted by Krista on October 3, 2012
I live by this little taco stand. I used to walk by it and think it looked a little sketchy. But then one day when the taco cravings hit, I went in. And I had the tacos al pastor and they were so gosh darn wonderful that I think I ate them three times that week. I like the staff. I like the service. I like that they give you a real hunk of lime and not just a little sliver and that they use corn tortillas, not flour. The interior decor — what there is of it given that there are really only about eight stools — could use a lot of work, but lately, they’ve spruced up the outside, so that’s nice. Oh, and did I mention that, besides for being super delicious, Taqueria Traspasada is also super, super cheap?
The Verdict: You should go here. Like really.
The Question: Where are you favorite tacos?
Posted by Krista on October 2, 2012
I was all over the great state of Florida last month. Three hotels in three nights. It was a combination of vacation, phase one of my mom’s surgery, and what ended up being a bit of a travel nightmare because I got terribly ill and wasn’t allowed anywhere near my mother after her surgery.
It’s interesting, staying in three hotels in three nights. You notice things you might normally not once you get to the second hotel. And by the time you get to the third hotel, you’ve got a little bit of a routine going.
The first hotel, The Crowne Plaza Z Ocean in Miami Beach. I stayed here on points, and well, while many people might like it here, it just wasn’t for me. The staff was spacey — they checked me into someone else’s room and then they forgot to clean my room two days in a row — and the hallways were pretty dingy and knocked up. Plus, they had signs like this.
If you’re going to provide something that looks like a refrigerator, why not just make it a refrigerator?
Oh, and then this drove me crazy. The real refrigerator door opened one way, while the cabinet door opened the other way. Designed by a man, I’m sure. (Sorry, men.) Ah, and the bed has some sort of plastic wrap on it, and they forgot to give me toilet paper and one of the TVs didn’t work. Oh, and the front desk staff kept calling me “Honey.” Honey? SHUT IT.
Then, I flew to Gainesville, in northern Florida, during an electrical storm. On a super small plane. Everyone on the plane screamed in unison at one point. That wasn’t fun. But we survived, and I checked into the Hilton University of Florida Conference Center and it was pretty amazingly nice for a basic hotel. Check-in was seriously the fastest I’ve ever encountered, there was free wifi all over, and the restaurant served some pretty tasty (albeit not creative) food. My Uncle George said the burger he had in the bar was the best he’s ever had, and my Uncle George is 75 years old, so that means something to me. I was so ill at this point that all I did was sleep, so no pictures for you. Sorry! But I can tell you that the bath products were surprisingly nice, and the sheets were surprisingly soft.
After I was told to leave Gainesville, I had to find my way back to Orlando by myself. (My original plan was to head home with my mom to West Palm and take care of her for a few days. The doctors said NO WAY once they picked up on how sick I was.) I took a BUS to Orlando because it was cheaper than renting a car, and I was kinda excited about this because they promised free wifi on the bus. Well, there was no free wifi, and when I finally got to the bus depot in Orlando, there was a big sign that said, “We will not refund your ticket if the wifi didn”t work.” (Couldn’t get a photo.) Seriously people…if you have to make a sign that says that, doesn’t that tell you that THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG. And why do you put pictures of business people working on their laptops all over your buses if you can’t delivery on your branding? Red Coach USA, I am looking at YOU.
And then I found myself at the Hyatt Orlando Airport. The staff was amazingly cheerful and lovely, which I needed after all the planes, trains and automobiles. And MY ROOM OVERLOOKED THE RUNWAY, which was kinda awesome. (I love airports, remember.) Oh, and then the hotel is attached to the airport, so you could wander around the food court and shops which was fun for a while, until my cold medicine ran out. This is a super high volume property — you can tell. But the staff and the bits like the runway made it a star for me. Not a star? The $52 I spent on room service. Gah.
So…my trip to Florida didn’t turn out like anything I planned. I wish I had thought to load my iPad up with movies and stuff because I definitely spent a lot of time traveling around. And I wish I had brought more practical clothing than little sundresses because I was freezing half of the time on planes and buses. I also wish I had status on American Airlines because let me tell you — checking in at Miami Airport totally sucks. Actually, Miami Airport just totally sucks in general.
Let’s just say I’m glad to be home and I like my own bed!
Posted by Krista on October 1, 2012
I like gyros. 1994: me, Santorini, a moped, and $1 gyros for every meal. Good memories. (Bad memories: the ferry from Corfu to Santorini and the terrible chop and my terrible seasickness.) I like gyros so much, I can forgive a Chipotle knock-off. Because that’s what Covo, the new Greek fast food place in Wicker Park, is. A total and complete knock-off of a certain salty and popular Mexican assembly-line burrito chain. (Roti, the Mediterranean chain, also falls into this category, but their menu is a bit larger so it’s different. Sort of.) I mean honestly, it’s like Covo is NOT EVEN TRYING TO HIDE IT.
I can forgive Covo the Copycat because I’ve been jonesing for a gyro these last few months. Covo is cheap, it’s fast, it’s pretty good, and they use an iPad for their cash register. Oh, and they use Square Up for transactions, so you don’t need to be carrying around a wallet full of those pesky “Buy 10 get one free” cards. And, well, I kinda want to steal their lighting. (Are you sensing a theme here?)
Oh–and the sparkling white wine they have on offer! Now that’s new and different!
The Verdict: Good. Get the wine! Covet the lighting.
Posted by Krista on September 30, 2012
A while ago, the New York Times, only my favorite newspaper in the entire world, published a terrible article about travel tips from (supposedly) “seasoned travelers.” It was entitled, “How the Tough Get Going: Silicon Valley Travel Tips.”
It’s been bothering me for a long while.
While I admit that there were some gems in there , a lot of the article was complete and utter rubbish, and irresponsible to boot. No Tim Ferris, I am not going to pack a starter pistol in my luggage so I can ensure my bag gets special handling. Neither am I going to leave my car on the street for days on end because parking tickets are cheaper than airport parking. (Where I live, they will tow your ass. And I don’t have the time, energy, or virtual assistance necessary to get a car out of the impound lot.) And I will skip the disposable underwear (FOR THE LOVE OF GOD), please.
So first, let me tell you my real travel tips. From me, someone who flew over 150,000 miles last year and will probably fly over 75,000 this year and has always flown over 50,000 miles a year since 2004. (Most of it in the back of the plane.)
Let’s call them “Travel Tips from a Girl from Long Island” because at the end of the day, I’m not a very fancy person. I’m more of a practical person, a normal person, a normal person who wants to get off a plane and feel normal and well-rested and READY.
1. Tylenol PM is your friend. I cannot believe the New York Times piece did not mention Tylenol PM as any seasoned traveler will tell you that this is your secret to sleep and jetlag. Take two of these after takeoff (wheels up people) and you will be dosing within 40 minutes. When people tell me they can’t sleep on planes, I want to slap them and say “THAT’S BECAUSE YOU’VE NEVER TRIED.” Last year in particular, I made it my JOB to sleep on planes. Tylenol PM is also excellent when you’re in a foreign country and it’s 2 a.m. and you are staring at the ceiling of your hotel room. One time in Israel, I was out of Tylenol PM so I went to the pharmacist — a good New Yorker — and explained what I was after and done. The Israeli version of Tylenol PM.
2. Use TripIt.com and the app. Forward all of your hotel, flight and car information to one email address and it all magically appears within TripIt.com and the app, along with directions and weather. Then, when you get to your destination, you can just whip out your phone and tell the taxi driver where to go. No confusing mishmash of reservation printouts.
3. Buy this extension cord. You can thank me later when you’re in your hotel room that only has one plug by the bed and you want to charge your iPhone, iPad, laptop and Blackberry, all at the same time.
4. You’ll be surprised how good nasal spray feels. I complained recently about how dry my nose gets during travel and someone suggested I get some saline nasal spray. I feel a little dorky carrying it around, but let me tell you…pretty awesome. It makes me feel NORMAL after a long flight.
5. Use the stupid socks. Just like I feel dorky with my nasal spray, I also feel dorky wearing those compression socks. But after a trip back from Tokyo to London in 2008, I am now a believer. They are tight and uncomfortable when you are wearing them, but when you take them off on the other side of the pond, your legs just feel so much more awake and normal.
6. Introduce yourself to the person next to you. I’ve met a lot of interesting people this way. Most people are interesting. Some people are boring, some people are obnoxious, but most people are interesting. The first time someone formally introduced themselves to me on a plane was around 2004, when an American serviceman sitting next to me introduced himself as we got ready to depart Chicago for London. This guy was the nicest, most wonderful person in the world and we spent some time chatting upon departure and landing. Most importantly, he knew when to shut up. You should know when to shut up too.
7. Listen to Channel 9, if they have it. I LOVE listening to the pilots and air traffic control talk. Some of my favorite flights have been across the Middle East, where you listen to one air traffic controller in one country pass your plane off to the next air traffic controller in the next country. I am such a dork now that I will often get on the plane and ask, “Is the Captain going to turn Channel 9 on?” United calls it Channel 9 but other airlines might call it something else.
8. Be loyal to an airline. If you know you are going to fly more than 20,000 miles in a given year, try to consolidate those miles in one place. Even the most basic Premier status on United gets you priority boarding and free baggage. A big deal these days.
9. Get an airline credit card. I have a United Club Card along with a Starwood American Express Card. To be honest, I really don’t need the United Club Card for Club access it gives me. I use it mainly because it gives me 2x the points on any United purchase, and 1.5 times the points on any general dollar spent. It also gives me Hyatt Gold Passport Platinum status, but this is a new feature that I have not tried yet. The Points Guy has a good write-up over here. (And I would just highly recommend his site in general.) Because of the large annual fee, I would not recommend the United Club Card for most people. It’s just for mileage whores. But there are plenty of other airline cards out there. GET ONE.
10. CHECK YOUR BAGS. Many people will disagree with me, but seriously, if you are flying a route like Chicago => London, there is no reason not to check your bag. If your bag for some odd reasons misses the 4 pm flight, it will be on the 6 pm flight or the 9 pm flight. Since 2004, only once have I reached the other side to find my luggage missing. And that was only because I flew Denver => Chicago => London and had a tight connection in Chicago. The bag showed up at my flat in London about 10 hours later. I forgave them. Personally, I would rather have ten outfits for a week of travel than chipping things down to four outfits in a carry-on, and I hate schlepping things through airports. That being said, I always carry-on two easy-pack outfits, two changes of underwear, and a t-shirt, just in case. And I do get nervous about checking my bags if two different air carriers are involved or if I have a fancy event to go to. In short, if I know that once I get to wherever I’m going, I’m not going anywhere, I just check my bags. (But I ALWAYS clearly label my luggage and include a sheet of paper on top of my packed luggage with my address, just in case. And my bags all have three name tags on them each.)
11. Noise Cancelling Headphones. Get some. I don’t need to write much about this. But I will say that my Beats Headphones are actually more noise-cancelling than my Bose Noise Cancelling-headphones, even though the Beats are not noise-cancelling.
12. Karma pays. Be nice to the screaming child, the harried gate agent, and particularly any flight attendant. There has been at least one occasion where I have received complimentary business class champagne in coach just for being a nice person. (I give up my seat a lot so old people and families with young children can sit together.)
I feel like I could write about this topic forever, but I’ll stop now. What are your travel tips? Tell me what you got.
Posted by Krista on September 29, 2012
I love tortilla soup. And my new iPhone 5 which let me take this awesome photo of tortilla soup while I was at a pretty average sports bar in Ravenswood in Chicago last weekend.
That’s the thing with tortilla soup. I’ve NEVER had a bad bowl, even at the crappiest of crappy sports bars. It’s seemingly impossible to get wrong. Why is that? Chicken broth, shredded chicken, diced tomatoes, old dried-out tortillas, maybe some black beans…they all come together in some glorious sludge that I could happily drown in.
Someone throw me an avocado and a lime. I’ll be a while.
I had my tortilla soup at Brownstone in Chicago. It’s fine if you like to watch sports on TV.
Posted by Krista on September 27, 2012
I’ve been eating a lot of tacos lately.
A lot. (Non sequitor: Two words, people. TWO WORDS.)
And especially, the fish tacos at Antique Taco in Chicago. OK, sure, Antique Taco is a little hipster. But I TOTALLY want to steal all their cloth napkins. Like all of them.
Yo, it’s the fish tacos. With spicy, creamy tartar. I want corn tortillas, not flour. But this particular over-aging hipster, she can deal.
Corn salad!!! Corn salad, corn salad. This is the type of dish that makes me feel slothy. Because shurely I could make this. But I don’t. So I go to Antique Taco once a week and I eat it there. And I give thanks.
And contemplate and stare at their napkins. Like really, literally stare.
The Verdict: Go, you little hipster you! Go!
Posted by Krista on September 12, 2012
Yes, I’m alive. Funny, I was reading this blog post yesterday — another tiring post on “How to Start a Food Blog” by a successful blogging couple with an exhausting amount of energy — and one of their “suggestions” is “You have to publish high quality content every single day.”
Well, good luck with that. (And this coming from someone in the old days who published five days a week, pretty consistently.) I’ll post when I post and when I want to post, and if you read it, that’s great. And if you don’t, well, I hope you were doing something fun otherwise.
Because frankly speaking, I AM EXHAUSTED. I should have blogged from the road last week while I was playing planes, trains, and automobiles all over the Great State of Florida. Because it was truly amazing, how much geography I covered, and how really, I NEVER GOT ANYWHERE. If you ever thought “Oh TRAVEL IS JUST SO GLAMOROUS,” you would have enjoyed my stay at the Orlando Airport Hyatt while I waited for my flight to Chicago the next day.
Sorry for the shouty caps.
Let’s talk about the Jibarito instead. It’s a Chicago invention! But it’s Puerto Rican! It uses FRIED GREEN PLANTAINS instead of BREAD. It’s full of garlicky mayo. AND STEAK. And it cost me $7 at a small, clean family run restaurant called Papa Cache Sabroso in Chicago’s Humboldt Park.
And it was good. Good, not great. But good. (The steak was a little tough and there could have been more of it.) Oddly, what was really good was the side of garlic bread that came with my sandwich. Very garlicky.
What I really want to do is go back to Papa Cache’s for their roast chicken. It’s supposed to be fab. It looked fab. I’m trying to get out more, explore more, you know…instead of sitting home and writing blog posts…so I hope to be back soon.
Posted by Krista on August 19, 2012
Ah, Madrid. So many places, so little time. And the most wonderful thing? You can make a progressive dinner out of almost any street. Or not have dinner at all, and fill yourself up with complimentary tapas at each stop along the way. (This might require a bit of strategizing, lest you eat nothing but potato chips all night. Madrilenos love crisps.) Last year, my colleagues introduced me to Cava Baja during a trip to Madrid, so this year, we recreated my 2011 tapas crawl. (Which oddly, I never wrote about.) If you’re planning a trip to Madrid, you could do worse than spending an evening skipping from one tapas bar to another on Cava Baja. So here’s where we ate, including some places on Cava Baja. (Listed roughly in order of deliciousness.)
Casa Lucio, Cava Baja 35. Go early and if you plan on dining here, don’t go without reservations. This is an old-school institution. We stood at the bar and fortified ourselves with rose, olives, and anchovies. I liked the multi-generational-ness to it all, and we particularly enjoyed the ladies of a certain age standing beside us. Always wear eye shadow, ladies. Always. Especially when you’re 80+.
Casa Alberto, C/Huertas 18, close to Plaza de Santa Ana. We were initially attracted here by the promise of vermouth on tap, but once we entered, we knew we had to settle down and relax for a while.
Why? The Casa Alberto pork scratchings! Not good for the cholesterol, but wonderfully good for the soul. As is the vintage interior and lovely onyx bar and sweet and gentlemanly service.
Bar Raypi, Mercado Maravillas. Unbelievably inexpensive and delicious to boot. We could barely finish the huge sandwiches they put in front of us or the heaping platter of patatas bravas. This was one of those lunches where you spend the rest of the day saying, “Boy, lunch today was really good. Wasn’t it good?” Short on atmosphere as it’s a cafe in a busy, working food market. But long on everything else.
Casa Lucas, Cava Baja 30. We were lucky to get a table in this place that’s half stand-up in the front, half sit-down in the back. We ordered a bottle of rose (surprise!) and I got my vegetable fix through one of the best salads I think I’ve ever had. (I never eat enough vegetables when traveling, so I always try to order the occasional salad.) This was a cut of pork (solmillo?) accompanied by pears, ginger and dried figs. Absolutely fantastic. Oddly, we were not (that I recall) given any tapas. Service also a bit harried, but they got the job done. Lovely female chef came out to say hi when we were so complimentary and inquisitive about the pears.
Mercado San Miguel. It’s not Spain without the obligatory jamon. We whiled away a couple of hours at the lovely Mercado San Miguel, which seems perfectly oriented towards the tourist crowd. The hardest part is finding a place to sit, so I’d recommend 1. getting a glass of wine before you do anything else and 2. waiting until you find a place to sit to order food. (I ordered three glasses of rose to start us out and they cost, um, 9 euros. I love you, Spain.) We made multiple trips up and back to the market stalls for oysters, empanadas, olives and more. The nice part is that there is something for everyone. The only flop was the croqueta guy. His croquetas were undercooked and, well, just not very good.
Casa Botin, Calle de los Cuchilleros, 17. A guidebook stalwart. Lots of atmosphere, but also lots of tourists. Not necessarily a bad thing, but this was one of our most expensive meals and the price/value and price/taste ratios were out of whack. The artichokes were good though. I would skip this one, but I list it here because it’s so popular and you’re bound to read about it and I want you to skip it.
Hotel Urban, Glass Bar, Carrera de San Jeronimo 34. I had “dinner” twice at the Hotel Urban bar. I loved my tomato, rucola and mozzarella sandwich so much the first night, I ordered it again the second night. At 10 euros, this is a pretty expensive sandwich for Madrid, but it was still pretty delicious. The Glass Bar sort of looks like it was designed ten years ago, forewarned.
Cerveceria Alemana, Plaza Santa Ana 6. Another guidebook stalwart, but worth it for the woodwork, the Hemingway connection, and the low prices.
Do you know how sometimes, you think you took at on of pictures, but then when you actually review what you took, you didn’t take many at all? That was my trip to Madrid. Not enough photos! Next time…