Donna Bell’s Bake Shop!

 

Attention NCIS fans – did you know that Pauley Perrette – aka Abby Sciuto on CBS’ NCIS owns a Southern style bakery in the middle of midtown Manhattan? And it’s amazing? The treats are fabulous, and prices are very reasonable for New York City. I What I love the most about the little shop is they do not brag about their famous proprietor and only have a few photos of her in the store.  It feels much less like a celebrity owned tourist trap in NYC, and more like a hometown bakery a few blocks from Time Square. Take a look at how the store got started, it’s pretty cool!  
 

the shadow-y window sign photo attempt

Adam and I stopped by there for a quick snack last week, but I decided to post about it today in honor of a new NCIS episode (I’m a dork, I know) – It’s also No-Eat-Outober so if we stopped here together, we’d be  breaking our own rule!

 

ginormous cookies and candy filled brownie bars! You can see a corner of Adam's favorite lemon bars in the corner of the photo 🙂

He had the lemon bar, which he loved. I tried it, and while I’m not normally a lemon fan, this bar provided a perfect mix of tart and sweet. I tried the jalapeno corn bread, which was also amazing, but came in a GIANT piece. I ended up only eating part of it. While it was that good, I didn’t want to eat my day’s calories in corn bread (although, I totally could have – so yummy!) I didn’t get the best photos of our treats, but I promise, next timeto get some good ones.

One of my favorite foods that I’ve tried from Donna Bell’s is their Bacon, Bleu Cheese and Parsley biscuit. I’m not usually a huge biscuit fan,  but these things are amazing!

 

how much is that bac-on in the window?

 

Donna Bell’s is close enough to my office that I sometimes stop by for a cup of coffee – which is also tasty, and not too strong. If you’re in the area stop by Donna Bell’s – it’s so much better than Starbucks and Magnolia combined 🙂

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Alice’s Tea Cup + Fall Oatmeal Variations

With Yom Kippur, Friday – Saturday, there really is not that much food or fitness related talk. Rather, there was a more of a lack of food and fitness and despite the deficiency in the edible part of the weekend; it was great to spend time with my sister, my grandmother, and my aunt.  

However one meal did stand out.  Traditionally, Jews break their fast with a meal called a break fast, and eat (surprise!) breakfast foods. It’s much easier on the tummy to introduce low key breakfast foods than a greasy pizza or heavy steak. And we did just that. I can’t tell you how good a bagel, some cream cheese, and a glass of water tastes after not eating or drinking for 24 hours.  My aunt and grandmother prepared a beautiful break fast with bagels, cream cheese, smoked fishes, juice, cakes, cookies – wow SO good!

 

must.eat.bagel.

 

On Sunday we celebrated my good friend Reba’s birthday with brunch at one of my favorite breakfast hot spots in the city – Alice’s Tea Cup. Funnily enough, Reba and I became good friends working out together – friends that are active together, stay together.

 

I'm a little tea pot short ans stout ...

 

Alice’s is little girl (and big girl)’s dream. It’s decorated in pinks, purples and perfect for either a four year old’s tea party birthday or a 30 year old’s baby shower. The Alice in Wonderland theme is not overdone and I love the added fairy tale ambiance. They serve amazing scones, decadent desserts, and lovely tea sandwiches. And it wouldn’t be Alice’s if you didn’t try their tea, they have a tea menu that is the size of half a phone book.

 But, beware. It can be over a two hour wait on weekends. We waited two and a half hours on Sunday. Their rule for reservations are that you need a group of six, and everyone needs to order a $30 pre-fix menu – which we decided to veto and chose to wait instead of secure an advanced booking.

What I love about this place, is that you can easily make healthy tasty choices – or if you want to indulge, they have incredible options as well.

 I chose the oatmeal – which was a perfect fall treat. They make it very light and fluffy, but only use water and for a couple of extra bucks, you can add berries on top.

pretty, tasty AND healthy!

 

A friend tried the scones benedict, where you get to chose a savory scone to top with a poached egg and hollaindise sauce. The chicken and potato hash that is served on the side was a big hit at the table.

 

what a treat!

The biggest sellers at Alice’s are their scones, and the pumpkin scone is a perfect fall treat.

 

the perfect fall treat 🙂

 

 

Speaking of fall breakfast treats – Check out my article in Resident Magazine on tips for fun twists on Oatmeal from some of my favorite healthy living bloggers, Julie from PB Fingers, Kelly from Eat-Yourself-Skinny, Caitlin from Healthy Tipping Point, Katy Widrick from katywidrick.com and Tina from Carrots N’ Cake.

 

Healthy Salad Tips

Today, I got to start off my morning with a fabulous NuGo slim bar. I first tried the NuGO bars when they were in my Healthy Living Summit swag bag – and loved them!

Remember me?

NuGo sent me the slim bars to try, and I love these even more. They’re 180 calories, 9 grams of fiber, 15 grams of protein – and just 2 grams of sugar.

I’m a big “bar” person, because I love how easily I can grab one in the morning, (running around in New York City, make its way tooooo easy to just grab an egg on a roll at a deli, so I like to have a “bar” on hand) but often I don’t feel full long enough. I love that these have a high amount of fiber, and protein, but don’t have a lot of other junk – and are coated in real dark chocolate. Love! I’ll definitely be ordering more!

like a candy bar - but filling!

 

One of the things I love about NYC is that it’s SO easy to grab food on the go – but it’s also one of the things I hate.  My favorite lunch time item is a good hearty salad. I had a friend once tell them that they only eat salads when they go out at lunch time to keep the options under control, as well as the calories.

 

salad bar line at the Food Emporium in midtown

I thought I’d give you guys some of my tips to making a healthy salad

Shosh’s Healthy Salad Bar Tips

1.       Avoid any type of protein with mayo – ie Tuna or Egg Salad

2.       Pick LOTS of colors. Do not just stick with the basics. Go for fun toppings like beets, corn,  or sundried tomatoes.

3.       The darker the better – I love dark greens like spinach, but I often mix it up for fun. Like today, I went with a Romaine lettuce base. But, know that you get more vitamins if the lettuce is dark – and definitely avoid iceberg lettuce.

4.       Ask for egg whites – not egg on your salads. A lot of “make your own” salad places will chop up an egg for your salad – ask for just the whites, and you’re eliminating the fat from the yolk. A bonus plus, is they do not charge as much for “egg” as for other proteins, so you’ll get more bang for your buck!

5.       Don’t be afraid of fruit! I love adding sliced fruit to an already veggie heavy salad. The combo of the sweetness of an apple with the boldness of blue cheese,  makes for an ultra-delicious flavor.

6.       Pick one “hefty item” – for example, chose almonds, mozzarella, or avocado – but not all of them. If you do one more than one, feel free to tell the person making the salad to go light on these items. I usually order avocado, but pick some of it out – Don’t get me wrong, I love avocado (You can’t trust people that don’t love it), and a portion size amount of It is good for you, but a lot of is not great

7.       Avoid anything fried – Do not get the fried cutlets, the fried Chinese noodles, or the bacon toppings. The tase is just not worth the fat/calorie content!

today's salad - romaine, bleu cheese, corn, peppers, beets, asparagus, apple slices - YUM!

 

Biggest Tip!

8.       Loose the dressing. My favorite trick is to get a sprinkle of a strong cheese (parmesan or blue cheese) and add some balsamic vinegar. This brings out a strong flavor with a lot less fat (and more protein!)

What’s your favorite way to top a salad?

Bye, Bye, Bye (singing ‘Nsync in my head)

We spent our last morning in AZ, lounging around. We found a cute French café by our hotel and grabbed a yummy breakfast and played in the Butte’s fancy pool. It was the perfect morning for a bit of swimming! Hot, but not yet over 100 degrees at that point!

Essence Cafe in Tempe - Two Thumbs UP!

colorful macaroons!

fresh fruit salad and a piping hot quiche!

Love the pool at the Buttes!

pre-sunburned-swim

post - swim - with rosey red sunburns!

Next, we headed over to my favorite store … To some, this place is terrifying, but to me, it’s my happy place.

bring it on, ladies!

Last Chance is a one of a kind store buried in a basement of a strip mall Camelback in Phoenix.  Nordstrom has “The Rack” but this is even better.  Think piles of Jimmy Choos, DVF clothes, and Michael Kors bags – for under 100 bucks. The store opens up at 10am, but people start lining up before the sun rises. They read rules before the door opens.  For example, you may not steal from another shoppers cart or you may not purchase more than three (ie only three purses per day) of any item.   You know, stuff that they read before you enter a typical store 😉

I scavenged the store, while Adam sat on a bench – he’s not as big a fan of competitive shopping as I am, as I live for black Friday – and came up with a lot. I got a pair of North Face boots, and Steve Madden Boots for 20 bucks, but my biggest find was a red Longchamp bag. I LOVE these bags, and could not believe my luck. Yes, it might have been dramatic, but I told Adam to guard it with his life as I continued to graze the store. While I got in line to checkout,  I asked A for the time, to which he replied 2:30, already worried that we had a flight to catch I started to panic.  Then from behind us, a lady said, “it’s not 2:30, it’s only 2:05, don’t let him trick you!”,  quickly other women joined in pouncing on my lovely fiance’s attempt to get out of that mad house. Gotta love shopping comraderie!

we took these awesomely cheesy photo booth pics outside Last Chance - My fav store doubles as an arcade. Score!

And we’re off to NYC!

Do you like to bargain shop?

We’re engaged!!!

The Proposal!

Yes, I know I gave away zinger in the headline, but I can’t help myself, I’m so excited! (As one of Adam’s cousins screamed on the phone – insert a thick NY accent here – “Youuu’rrrreee eennaggggeedd to beee marrrrriiieeeeeeddd!!!!!)

We booked our trip to Arizona months ago, and from the start Adam asked me to make Saturday, our “date day.” I left on Tuesday and his plan was to meet me out there for the long weekend  – Our 2 year dating anniversary fell on Wednesday, so we’d be a apart for the day, but planned to celebrate on our “date day.”

 

Remember the flowers Adam sent me for our date-iversary?

Adam’s a complete romantic (we’re lucky that one of us is, because I have the romantic inklings of a paper bag) and would not give me any details about our DD. My friends all predicted that he would propose – and I adamantly denied it. The boy had promised that he’d give me a heads up so my nails could be properly manicured (I mean, a city girl has to have her priorities straight – good ring nail color is a big one!)

Saturday, started out great. We woke up at the Arizona Biltmore. We stayed over that night in their Ocotillo rooms as part of my freelance piece on AZ Spa Resorts. They are just amazing, the rooms are gorgeous, and the staff is unbelievable. Here are some highlights, you’ll get to see more, when my story comes out!

Ocotillo's private pool. Lovely!

 

Kids would love it here!

LOVED this room!

truffles in a chocolate box - LOVE this hotel!

 

We went to Over Easy, a little breakfast nook in Phoenix featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive Ins and Dives. We do a lot of traveling and have made it a tradition to try out some of restaurants featured on Triple D! They’re always unique, yummy, have lots of (healthy and unhealthier) options, and are not over priced.  Over Easy was not an exception. I asked the waitress what she recommended and before I knew it – I had chicken fried steak. I’ve NEVER eaten or ordered that before in my life, and I’m not sure how it happened – literally, but it was amazing. I shared it with Adam, and had an amazing ice coffee. Their iced coffee is made with evaporated milk, and has hints of cinnamon and mint. It’s a GREAT treat for a hot Phoenix morning!

Delicious!

Next, Adam went to CVS and packed up a cooler with water, ice, and snacks. He’d had warned me to bring a bathing suit, so I thought we were going to a water park of some sort. That idea soon changed when we ended up on the Apache Trail, headed towards Roosevelt Lake and Dam. My parents used to take my fam on this drive as kids – but I do not remember it being nearly as scary – clearly, my worry wart attitude has increased with age – the drive starts out as a winding paved road riding up steep inclines and back down into the canyon, as if not scary enough, it soon turns into a single lane dirt road (for both directions) going up, down and around mountains without guard rails. It was like a real life rodeo – so fun!

Doesn't it look like you're surrounded by no one?

We ended up parking at Roosevelt Lake, and walking to the Marina – where I saw that my boyfriend had taken a boating course and gotten his boating license. (Read: He did a very good job of hiding a 16 hour course from me – maybe my journalistic skills need to be sharpened ;))

Captain Adam K!

 

We got into the boat – let me say, for not having EVER driven a boat before, that Adam is one fine captain. He’s a natural.

He maneuvered us over to a little cove, and tried to drop the anchor, but the steep drop off of the mountain, meant deep waters, and it wouldn’t catch. We were rebels and decided to drift a bit. Adam asked me if I wanted my present for our anniversary. I said yes, of course. Duh, who doesn’t want presents? He told me that he got me something to help me with my writing and pulled out a fancy shmancy Droid Tablet and said he put some blogging software. I was shocked. That’s a BIG anniversary gift.

I couldn’t see the software though, because of the glare (love the hot AZ sun!) and Adam started getting nervous – which was odd and just hit play on the tablet. It started playing our song – Phil Vassar’s version of My Next 30 years and was a video montage of photos. He called it our “top ten” moments – think David Letterman, but a lot more mushy. Number 9, was our first Halloween together, number 2 was our first date (Which he noted had no photos, because it would be creeptastic to take a photo with a girl on the first date) and number one had a picture of the lake, and asked the question Why?  At this point, I was still clueless. He told me the tablet wasn’t my real gift and got down and one knee and proposed.

 

he could not have done better - just what I wanted!

Cry-Laugh-Cry-Laugh - Smile for Picture - Cry - Laugh - Cry - Laugh

 

I was cry-laughing. He was not sure if I was happy, sad, or seasick, and the boat started ramming into the rocky cliffs (remember we decided to drift … ) It was amazingly hysterical. As he put the ring on, the AZ boat patrol came over to try and help. We yelled that he just proposed and that we were fine.  Happy, not sad. Distracted, not stuck. Adam got out the paddles and pushed us away from the rocks.

Rocks, don't you understand that someone is getting engaged? Please don't hurt the boat. Thanks, Shosh

I found out that he had talked to my sister earlier in the week, and got her “permission” as well as my father the night before. I do not think I can gush enough about how much effort he put into this. He really wanted to make this happen in Arizona so I could celebrate with my closest friends and celebrate with my parents. It was perfect.

After we started calling people, everyone wanted to know the same thing:

  1. How did it happen? See above
  2. What is the ring like? He had a jeweler design the band for me, using a stone passed down from his great grandmother, to his grandmother and then to his mom.
  3. When’s the wedding?  No clue! We’re taking a few months to be pumped about our engagement and then we’ll figure out more details.
  4. Where’s the wedding going to be? Since we live in New York, but my family is Phoenix, and we both have fam all over – this is a hot button issue (just like immigration) – the answer is the same as above. We’re not sure yet

We finished up the night by getting snazzied up and heading to dinner at the Top of the Rock. We were staying at the Buttes Resort in Tempe, and coincidently their restaurant is one of the most romantic in the city. Adam, of course, being him, had already made a reservation and let them know that we’d just gotten engaged. The resort sent up chocolate ice cream and champagne, and the chef cooked us a special dessert, it was absolutely gorgeous (Top of the Rock mini-review: Top of the Rock is a great romantic date spot because of the view, but A and I both agreed that we’ve definitely had tastier food for the price).

bubbles!

Summer Salad!

 

Cheers to us! 🙂

salmon with geek yogurt sauce

Thanks Top of the Rock Chef for this yummy dessert!

Such a wonderful day, with a wonderful person!

 

Heat Advisory

It is hot! That is a understatment, it’s really, really, really hot. The weather app on my phone says it’s 109.  When I planned my vacation to my great home state of Arizona, I did not count on there being a heat advisory in September – but there is. Luckily, the state has a lot of other things going for it! I’m on strike with mother nature, an earthquake, a hurricane and a heat advisory in less than a week is a bit too much for this city girl!

Hello Phoenix! Skyline view from my airplane window

 

When I landed, the first thing my parents did was take me to an amazing Asian Buffet. I hate to admit it, but I’m a fan of a good (clean and fresh) Asian buffet. I know buffets have a very bad rap, and encourage unhealthy eating – and overeating, but as someone is constantly watching what I eat, I actually think there are some healthy ways to “pick” at these types of places.

Plate O' Veggies! (And a little Tofu!)

Here are some of my healthy Chinese Buffet Rules:

  1. Do not eat anything fried.
  2. Load up on Fresh Veggies – if there is a Mongolian Grill, go there first for a plate full of veggies – the sauces are usually water based, so they are not as toxic as the ones on the hot plates.
  3. Look for sushi – We only go to places with fresh Sushi options, so my “main” meal is a couple veggie rolls
  4. Get a bowl of soup – As long is it’s not cream based, soups are dense and fill you up, so you’re not as tempted to dig into the sesame chicken.

We went to Hong Kong Gourmet Buffet in the Phoenix area, and you can order sushi as part of the meal  – and they make it fresh for you. I loved it!

freshly made sushi for the table to share!

 

 

I then came home and slept off my early flight and the time difference (two hours in the winter I can do easy – three hours in the summer, not so easy – For those of you that do not know how crazy Arizona is – the state does not participate in day light savings time) in time to meet up with my friend Chris for a fun Mexican dinner. Chris and I studied journalism at the George Washington University and I don’t think I would have made it through some of those classes without him. Good friends are the best!

Eating out Mexican food is always a struggle for me – my tummy usually wants the most greasy nachos on the menu, but my head knows better. Fajitas are usually a good option because you can control the amount of cheese, sour cream, guac (you know the stuff that makes Mexican food so yummy!) and corn tortillas are lot fewer calories than flour.I chose the veggie fajitas. Chris and I went to Valle Luna which has a ton of healthy options (and my mom had a buy one get one free dinner coupon – score!) The sizzling plate of veggies, was paired with some rice, beans, guac on a corn tortilla for a tasty dinner. Growing up in Arizona, I’m definitely a Mexican food snob, and this meal was amazing!

 

Sizzling Veggies!Fajita Fix'ins!

 

It’s always so fun to come home and see people who I haven’t seen in a long time – Can’t wait to catch up more!