A very heartfelt “THANK YOU” to everyone who left birthday wishes on Facebook, twitter, and via email! I loved hearing from all of you, and your comments and good wishes made this birthday one of the best ever. So thanks, everyone, for making my day that much brighter!
[Okay, so maybe mine look more like sausages than cigars. . . but they still tasted great!]
My, it has been a while since I posted a recipe on this site! And where the heck have I been for the past week or so, you ask? Imagine this scene:
Evening. Ricki is at home, sitting in front of the computer in her PJs, a cup of steaming herbal tea by her side. She is focused on her computer screen, when the phone rings. She grabs the receiver.
Ricki [slightly distracted by the blog she’s reading]: Hello?
Ricki Hey! What’s up?
Babe: Okay, so here’s the story: my job is sending me to New York for 2 days, and I have a free hotel room to share. It happens to fall on your birthday. Are you interested in meeting me there? We could have dinner, see a couple of plays, you’d have the daytime to yourself. . . what do you think? [Pause]. Ric? Are you still there?
Ricki [hyperventilating]: ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? Are you–KIDDING. ME–?? Whoo hoo! Whoopee! Yahoo! Yayyyy! New York! New York! NYC!! The Big Apple! The City of Light! The—
Babe: So do I take that as a “yes”?
And that, dear readers, is how I ended up spending my birthday last week in New York City, at this hotel. . . for free. (Well, okay, the airfare and meals weren’t free, but let’s not nitpick).
It had been quite a while since I last visited NYC, and I was just as enchanted this time round. Ah, New York, city of Broadway and global business, offering up a panoply of cultures and cuisines from at least fifty countries in a two-block span.
New York, where everyone–whether sporting runners or stilettoes–walks pretty much everywhere (apparently, the average New Yorker walks 5 miles a day). Where taxis will slow down, ask where you’re going, assess the income potential and then take off again if it’s not worth their economic while.
New York, where sleepy eyed denizens shuffle along the early morning streets with their dogs on plaid leather leashes, or sporting doggie booties, or doggie Burberrys for their morning walk, stooping and scooping as the canines do their business wherever they can, which usually means right on the concrete sidewalks (no green to be found for blocks at a time); where locals are so friendly that they’ll not only answer your touristy questions, but will also walk two blocks out of their way to lead you to your destination, advising you as you go that it’s pronounced “HOW-ston,” not “HEW-ston” so you won’t distinguish yourself as a redneck among the locals.
New York, where every attire you can think of graces the crowded streets in a welter of color and texture, highlighted by the current uniform du jour (riding boots, patterned tights, mini skirt or long sweater). Where celebrities can dine unaccosted at public restaurants with nary a glance from passing citizenry.
New York, where Times Square at midnight shines brighter than the blazing sun of noon; where a (mediocre) agave-sweetened, gluten-free cupcake can sell out at $4.50 a pop; where street buskers draw a crowd in the middle of lunch hour; where the energy is as palpable as a heavy fog as you stroll along Broadway, or Madison Avenue, or 47th Street–or just about anywhere, really.
Yep, that was New York for me this past week. New York, where I walked more in 1-1/2 days that I probably had in the previous week, where I indulged my inner glutton with abandon and still lost 2 pounds at the end of it.
All that–and being able to meet up with two of my favorite bloggers in less than two days!
Ah, but I’m getting ahead of myself. First, observe this:
Sorry for the blur (squint really hard and you can almost make it out). . . that’s T.R. Knight and me! (Okay, so I didn’t know who T.R. Knight was before I got him to sign my Playbill and take a photo after Babe and I watched him on Broadway in David Mamet’s A Life in the Theater. But apparently, he was quite the little heart-throb on Grey’s Anatomy.)
And the co-star of Mamet’s play, here:
[“Make it so!”]
Yes, it’s Jean Luc Picard himself, Captain of the Enterprise–aka Patrick Stewart! As a die-hard Star Trek fan, I was beyond thrilled to snag an autograph and snap this pic as he exited the theater. I am such a groupie!
That same evening, my friend Babe and I dined at Agra in celebration of the day of my birth. During the day, I wandered on my own and managed to trek to the Upper West Side, Columbus Circle and a new Whole Foods; SOHO; the Fashion District (had to check out the Manhattan Mall); Central Park; along with expeditions along Madison Avenue, Lexington, Park Avenue, and Times Square. Not bad for 36 hours!
But two high points of the visit, as I mentioned above, were meeting in person with a couple of fellow bloggers.
Lindsay of Happy Herbivore fame and I met up for a vegan breakfast. Lindsay’s blog is full of approachable fat-free recipes (some of which will appear in her upcoming cookbook). She’s also one of the best tweeters in twitterdom! We had planned to eat at Teany’s, but due to a scheduling glitch found it closed when we arrived. No matter: Whole Foods was a fine replacement instead.
After reading Lindsay’s blog for almost 3 years now, I felt as if I were greeting an old friend as we hugged hello. Our lively chatter was punctuated by giggles and guffaws as we gabbed about blogging (of course!), healthy eating, social media, and moving to exotic locales (hope the packing is going well, Lindsay!). Before I knew it, we’d spent over 2 hours together and it was time for me to head out. Lindsay was also kind enough to lead me to BabyCakes (a place I’ve been dying to visit since I first read about them in 2004 or so) and then guided me through the New York subway (a trip I am quite certain I would not have taken without her). Thanks for your vitality, your openness and your humor, Lindsay! (And I can’t believe it didn’t occur to me to snap a photo of us together–I am so sorry!).
[Does this photo look familiar? Then you must also have read Gena’s post. . . thanks for the photo, Gena! ]
The following day, I was equally delighted to meet up with Gena of Choosing Raw for lunch at Bonobos, one of several raw food establishments in the city. Although I had been dreaming about a meal at Pure Food and Wine for ages, after examining the menus of both places, I knew that Bonobos was the better choice for me. And it was: Gena and I began by taking full advantage of the free samples on the counter. I loved the nori “cigars” (tightly wrapped nori rolls filled with nut or seed pâté, twisted at the ends to resemble cigars) and practically drenched myself downing one too many of the warm coconut chai drinks and incredible raw soups.
For lunch, I enjoyed sushi rolls while Gena feasted on soup and salad. I’ve been a huge fan of Gena’s blog, Choosing Raw, since she began writing it a few years ago. And Gena is a true inspiration for many with her engaging, welcoming and articulate approach to gaining and maintaining good health. Her affability shines through whether she’s posting about raw versus cooked foods, explaining why we shouldn’t use labels to describe our eating habits, considering whether agave nectar is friend or foe, or sharing some of her incredible recipes (I mean, who hasn’t tried Gena’s chocomole or banana soft serve?) With a few years of blog reading, comments, and emails behind us, we dove right in and started chattering like two teenagers, on topics as diverse as blogging (of course!), conferences, veganism, twitter, relationships, and our two cities. Before we knew it, her lunch hour was over and she had to return to work. Thanks so much, Gena, for taking time out of your busy schedule to meet up!
And while it was over all too quickly, I couldn’t have had a better birthday gift than my visit to the Big Apple. The only downside was that the HH couldn’t be there with me (darned job!), but we’ll be celebrating together here at home.
So long, New York, and thanks for the memories. . . . I won’t wait so long to return next time.
Pumpkinseed Pâté-Filled Nori “Cigars”
from Diet, Dessert and Dogs (http://rickiheller.com)
These are my take on the filled nori cigars that Gena and I sampled at Bonobos. The pumpkinseed filling, as I remembered it, was tangy with lemon, with just a hint of fresh parsley. If you have a sushi mat, you can probably make them much thinner than mine (as they were meant to be), but even if they’re a bit thick, they’re still delightful. I’d also recommend allowing the cigars to sit for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator, uncovered, to allow the nori sheet to firm up a bit for easier slicing.
1/2 cup (70 g) raw pumpkin seeds
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp (10 ml) light miso
2 Tbsp (30 ml) raw cashews
1 Tbsp (15 ml) fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp (15 ml) coarsely chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp (5 ml) finely ground flax seeds
salt and pepper to taste
2 nori sheets (for sushi)
In a medium-sized bowl, cover the pumpkin seeds with water. Allow to soak at room temperature for at least 2 hours, up to overnight. Drain well.
Place the seeds and remaining ingredients in a food processor and process until you have a thick paste. Add water only if necessary to create a spreadable pâté; you don’t want it too watery (a mistake I made with my filling), or the rolls will be too thick.
Place one nori sheet on a cutting board or clean countertop and spread with half the filling, leaving a 1/2 inch (1 cm) border on both longer sides and one shorter side. Starting with the short side with no border next to you, roll toward the other short side as tightly as you can. When you reach the edge, moisten it with water and seal across the “cigar,” then twist each end to seal those as well. Repeate with second nori sheet and filling. Cut into 8-10 pieces each. Makes 2-3 servings. Best served fresh.
I’m linking this up to Amy’s Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays event–go check out all the other healthier options!
Last Year at this Time: Easy Breakfast “Sausage” Patties and Biscuits with Smoky Almond Gravy
Two Years Ago: Date Pasta (can be made gluten free)
© 2010 Ricki Heller
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