NYC Day 1, Happy Birthday Momma and Chops!

Longtime readers will remember that my step-son, husband AND Mom have birthdays on September 21, September 22 and September 23!  My Momma turns 74 years young today.  While she’s busy playing Mahjong and having a meeting at church today – I’ll be celebrating her birthday on Sunday with a potluck at her house.  Hope you have a great day Momma!  Charlie and Jennifer, you will just have to get over the fact that I am Mom’s favorite.   Um, you’ll have to see my brother’s birthday post to my Momma!  I’ll be here when you get back.


So I am SO excited to share the first day of my trip to NYC for the Extended Stay America recipe contest.   I hate flying but was surprised at how easily I fell asleep at 9:00 a.m. last Sunday night.  My car was picking me up at 3:00 a.m.  Yep, you read that right – three in the morning!  Tony, who doesn’t sleep well at all, stayed up until my alarm went off to make sure I got up in time.  So sweet!  I jumped in the shower, got dressed and at 2:55 put my bag outside and then was going back in the house to turn the lights off, and the car was already in my driveway!

I’ve had this driver before, he doesn’t talk – at all.  No worries, I had Instagram to catch up on.  My guilty pleasures at the airport?  People magazine and McDonald’s!  I actually got to the airport and through security before Starbuck’s even opened!  Luckily the plane ride was not bumpy at all – I LOVE JetBlue (each seat has their own t.v.) but I basically slept for at least an hour on the plane.  I had another car pick me up at baggage claim at JetBlue.  I wish I would have taken a picture of it, but it was cool to have a driver hold a sign up with my name on it.  As we were walking back to the car (while he carried my bags!) I asked how long it would take to get to Secaucus and he said “in this traffic, about an hour and a half.”

I thought Chicago traffic was bad, but New York’s is even worse – I think the only state that could be worse is California!  But it was a nice drive, he took the local roads, we drove through Manhattan and China town.  Just a sea of people EVERYWHERE!

PicMonkey Collage no. 1

I got to the hotel and had about an hour to kill before meeting the rest of the finalists in the lobby for lunch out and then going to Whole Foods to pick up our ingredients.  I met Lauren and her husband Louis, Megan and Sheri, who was from the advertising agency.  Shauna would meet up with us later that afternoon because her flight was coming in from Utah.  After lunch we went to Whole Foods, and Sheri basically said “get whatever you need, don’t worry about the cost or anything.  We’ll meet at the checkout and I’ll pay for everything.”

I can’t even imagine what it would be like not to have to pay attention to prices while grocery shopping!  Usually I am looking for the cheapest honey, cheapest Dijon mustard.  Nope, I went full metal jacket.  The cost of my ingredients (the pork alone was $32!) for making six servings came to $67. 

PicMonkey Collage no. 2

I remembered that I forgot the rosemary, and when I went back to the produce section, Lauren kind of looked like a deer in the headlights.  I said “what’s wrong?!”  She said that all the avocados were no where near ripe enough for her recipe and definitely wouldn’t ripen in a day.  I told her to hold on.  I found someone that worked there and asked “do you have any more avocados in the back?”  He said they would be even more not ripe in the back because they just came in.  I then asked if he any that were taken off the floor because they were too ripe, and he was able to find some – Lauren bought six and I think she said two were perfect!

We labeled our bags, went back to the hotel and then had some time to kill before meeting for dinner.  I heard a knock on my door 30 minutes later and it was one of the marketing people who presented me with a gift basket – score!

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I almost put this on Instagram and was going to say “Sunny’s got my money!”  but I thought I might jinx myself.

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Dinner was at Houlihan’s – which is fine by me.  When we went back down to meet for dinner, this sign was up in the lobby, so of course we had to take a picture next to it.

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I got a steak kabob salad and had a glass of pinot grigio.  It was nice getting to know the girls better.  I have to say that I could not have asked for a nice group of women.  I’ll single out each person and tell you a bit about them.  On the far left?  That’s Shauna.  She married her high school sweetheart and lives in Utah.  And while her husband is Mormon, and she said there is a Mormon church on just about every street corner, she is not.  They are raising two boys.  Her day job is a social security disability agent, but she loves entertaining and started her blog “Have Yourself A Time” a little over a year ago.  True fact – want to know what this foodie’s favorite food is?  GAS STATION NACHOS!  Yep, but they have to be specific – they have to be round, nearly stale tortilla chips with the cheese sauce that has little to no cheese in it at all.   Love it!

PicMonkey Collage - no 3

Before we knew it, it was time to head back to the hotel.  If I had any idea how busy the next day was going to be, I wouldn’t have stayed up until 11:00 watching t.v.!  This ended up being a MUCH bigger deal than I ever anticipated.  But. . . you’ll have to tune in tomorrow to hear about the actual day of the cook-off. 

I am no longer talking about the trip around Tony – as soon as I do he says “Sunny, New York, bloggers, Sunny, New York, Food Trucks.”  Ha!  But I am hoping you will enjoy this adventure I had and don’t mind me sharing it with you!

Yesterday for breakfast I had an egg white and spinach “omelet.”  I made it in the microwave egg cooker my Mom gave me.  On the side HALF  a NY bagel and some tasteless watermelon I ended up throwing out.

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Still no workout – this morning I go see the doctor about my knee.  I ended up going to the store because I made carrot cake for Tony’s birthday, which is awesome by the way, but for some reason I can’t make frosting to save my life.   $1.50 later, I had perfect cream cheese frosting in a can.  Lunch?  About batch #71 of Lasagna Soup!   Just look at the comments on that previous link and see how many times I’ve made it!  Although the original recipe came from A Farmgirl’s Dabbles.  This time I added baby spinach and used fuselli pasta.

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Tony’s birthday dinner was making me a bit nervous.  He decided on lamb chops for his birthday lunch, but um, I have never eaten and/or cooked lamb before.  I watched a lot of youtube videos, and knowing that Tony likes his medium rare, realized I was worrying about nothing.  I was just going to pretend it was steak!  I marinated the chops in olive oil, garlic and rosemary for about 40 minutes until they got to room temperature.  Never go from cold meat to a hot pan, you’ll get tough meat every time.

I cooked them for 1.5 minutes a side on high heat on our cast iron grill pan.  I made an orzo asparagus parmesan side dish, and he said he couldn’t have lamb chops without mint jelly!

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I probably only should have bought two chops, I didn’t realize how much meat that was, but he really liked it.  He ate two chops clean to the bone!   I have to admit, it was a bit stinky cooking it – gamey almost.  I did try a piece and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, but given the chance, I don’t think it’s a meat I’d order in a restaurant.  Hope you had a great birthday Tony!  Just when I was going to bed last night, one of his favorite movies was coming on – Young Frankenstein – he’s probably seen it 100 times, but just like the Godfather Part I and Part II (NEVER part III) if it’s on, no matter where it is in the movie, he’ll watch it to the end.

Alright – sorry for the long post, just had so much to say!  Come back tomorrow for the recap of the cook-off and meeting Sunny Anderson!  Off to my doctor appointment – make it a great day!

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  • Jennifer Olszowy
    September 23, 2014 at 6:38 am I have to laugh. My husband and daughter made carrot cake and she begged me for frosting. I looked up a recipe, while they walked the dog, and got to it. Of course, my 4.5 year old didn't like the frosting but us adults did! Sorry you can't get frosting right. I am a baker/dessert maker at heart so this stuff is my specialty. Have a great day!
    • Biz
      September 24, 2014 at 12:38 pm The recipe I followed just called for too much milk, I should have added it gradually, but I didn't. :D The cake is delish though! :D
  • Erica
    September 23, 2014 at 6:52 am ah! So cool! What an adventure. A once in a lifetime experience. And Tony's dinner turned out PERFECTLY. High five!
    • Biz
      September 24, 2014 at 12:38 pm Thanks E!
  • Joyce
    September 23, 2014 at 6:54 am Loved the whole story.....you made us feel like we were right there with you, and in a way we were! Especially those of us who voted each day feel like we were a part of it with you. Thanks.
    • Biz
      September 24, 2014 at 12:38 pm Thanks so much for enjoying the journey with me Joyce! :D
  • Lisa Boshell
    September 23, 2014 at 6:57 am Wow...sounds like so much fun, so far. I've never been to NYC, but would love to experience the people and food. Good luck with your doctor's appt. Hopefully, it will be something minor that's easily fixed with rest.
    • Biz
      September 24, 2014 at 12:39 pm I am having an MRI tomorrow morning - they think (eek) torn meniscus, but we'll see!
  • Thekitchwitch
    September 23, 2014 at 7:26 am I am loving hearing all of your adventures! Happy birthday to Tony! I like lamb okay, but it's not my favorite, and never with mint jelly :p
    • Biz
      September 24, 2014 at 12:39 pm I agree, the mint jelly sounds just gross, but he loves it!
  • Jill F
    September 23, 2014 at 7:28 am I was in Secaucus last week also, but I didn't arrive until Wednesday afternoon. And my hotel was right by Houlihans! If we had been there at the same time, I would have let you know. I love your blog, read it every day! And I live about an hour from Smith Mountain Lake!
    • Biz
      September 24, 2014 at 12:40 pm We were so close!! My Aunt sadly sold her Smith Mountain Lake - not sure if I'll ever get back up there - she bought another one closer to Richmond near Tappahannock - do you know that town? My Mom grew up in a tiny town called Warsaw.
  • Kym
    September 23, 2014 at 7:33 am More, more, more please. I love NYC and enjoy your outlook on things. I will be waiting for more tiny tidbits of your adventure. Happy to hear you clicked with everyone. Good company always makes things more fun. Gas station Nachos...really? I guess I am "afraid" to venture into the unknown of gas station food. I can barely bring myself to fix a self made cup of Dunkin Coffee :) In my defense, with the pay at the pump convenience, I haven't ventured inside a gas station in a very long time. Some of them seem rather nice from the outside almost like mini grocery stores.
    • Biz
      September 24, 2014 at 12:41 pm They have come a long way Kym - ours now has an ice cream smoothie machine where you add any ice cream you want with any fixings and then blend it like a shake. Not that I've tried that before :P
  • SuziCate
    September 23, 2014 at 7:38 am Wow, that's a lot of cake to make and eat in three days! Your brother's post was hilarious! I recognized some of those photos even with the alterations, ha!
    • Biz
      September 24, 2014 at 12:42 pm I'll probably bring the rest of it to work on Friday - won't keep much longer than the weekend. Glad you loved my brothers post - he's so creative!
  • Erin
    September 23, 2014 at 7:38 am Wow! I love hearing about the NYC trip! It sounds like you were treated like a celebrity and you deserve it! How exciting! Thanks for sharing!
    • Biz
      September 24, 2014 at 12:43 pm Yep, kind of like a rock star, then came back to work and started filing papers and realized it was back to reality :(
  • Kym
    September 23, 2014 at 7:55 am Just had to comment on Charlie's post. I loved it!!!! Your whole family is just super fun. Thanks for making me have a super smiley morning. :) :) :)
    • Biz
      September 24, 2014 at 1:06 pm Glad Charlie could help give you some laughs!
  • Christine
    September 23, 2014 at 8:21 am So nice of you to make those lamb chops for Tony. My son really wants me to make lamb but I always chicken out! I love reading about your adventure in New York, looking forward to day 2! Have a great day! :)
    • Biz
      September 24, 2014 at 1:07 pm Thanks Christine! Actually, the lamb wasn't hard to cook at all, if you make it, just be prepared for a bit of a "gamey" smell. :D
  • Allyson
    September 23, 2014 at 10:21 am Obviously you have the best parents in the country. If not THE best, one of the top 3 Moms for sure because you kids have the best sense of humor! I love it! Happy Birthday to Mama! Don't stop telling us all about the NY trip. It's fantastic to live vicariously through you ;-) I ordered lamb chops one time on a business trip to New Mexico. And have never ordered it since. Hope all's ok with the knee and you get answers today.
    • Biz
      September 24, 2014 at 1:07 pm Aw, that's too sweet Allyson! Glad you are enjoying the recaps :D Having an MRI tomorrow, we'll see!
  • Sherry Werth
    September 23, 2014 at 10:52 am Happy Birthday to you Mom!! Loved your brother's post! lol You can tell us all about NY as much as you want to! Can't wait for Day Two! :-D Glad Tony had a nice Birthday dinner! Hope your Dr. appt goes well and they get your knee all better! :-)
    • Biz
      September 24, 2014 at 1:08 pm Thanks Sherry - I am so glad that people want to read about my trip - it was an experience of a lifetime! :D
  • Randi
    September 23, 2014 at 11:02 am Happy Birthday everyone!! I make my cream cheese frosting with 1 bar of cream cheese, 1 stick of butter and 1 box of powdered sugar( get it at the Dollar Tree). Dash of vanilla, dash of milk and its perfect. Can't wait to hear about the rest of the trip. We're off to NYC in October.
    • Biz
      September 24, 2014 at 1:09 pm Rats, yep, added way too much milk - gah! Hope you have fun going back to your roots Randi!
  • Kim
    September 23, 2014 at 11:09 am Loved your brother's post for your mom's birthday!!! Fun to read some about your trip - can't wait to hear more!!! I've made lamb a couple of times -not my favorite but the boys really like it. It's super pricey though!
    • Biz
      September 24, 2014 at 1:09 pm Yep, a once in a while treat for sure - those three chops cost $14, but I equated that we couldn't buy lamb for that price in a restaurant, so it was worth it. :D
  • A Life From Scratch
    September 23, 2014 at 12:25 pm Happy birthday to your mom!!! So fun reading about your trip and I can't imagine traffic worse than Chicago!! HA!
    • Biz
      September 24, 2014 at 1:10 pm I've only read about traffic in California being worse!
  • Roz@weightingfor50
    September 23, 2014 at 1:44 pm I am SOOOOOO happy and glad you were able to participate in the contest finals! You deserve nothing but that!!!! And big Happy Birthday to your wonderful Momma!!!
    • Biz
      September 24, 2014 at 1:10 pm Thanks Roz! Loving all your snail pics :D
  • Carrie @ Season It Already!
    September 23, 2014 at 1:57 pm So fun to follow this! I voted for you every day I could, Biz!
    • Biz
      September 24, 2014 at 1:11 pm Thanks Carrie - I appreciate it. Can't wait for your Australia recaps!
  • Shelley B
    September 23, 2014 at 6:48 pm I like hearing all about your trip, so keep on indulging us with all the fun details!
    • Biz
      September 24, 2014 at 1:11 pm Thanks Shelley!
  • Megan H.
    September 23, 2014 at 10:21 pm I'm anxious to hear what you learned about me! :) I will eventually get around to updating my blog too!
    • Biz
      September 24, 2014 at 1:12 pm It was so nice meeting you Megan - I hope you find Mr. Right soon - I should have mentioned that you were single! :D
  • Fran
    September 24, 2014 at 3:37 am I love hearing about your trip so keep it coming. Biz you never made pork chops? I'm amazed. I love them, they are so easy to prepare. Unfortunately it's a) hard to get where I live and b) R. doesn't like it very much. I usually make them just for me when I can get my hands on them. Happy belated birthday to your Mom.
    • Biz
      September 24, 2014 at 1:13 pm Nope, never ate and/or made lamb chops before - pork chops I love though!
  • Joan
    September 24, 2014 at 3:37 am Love hearing about your adventures in NY. Keep them coming. Hope they figure out what's wrong with your knee.
    • Biz
      September 24, 2014 at 1:13 pm Thanks Joan - having an MRI tomorrow morning - he said through the x-ray that I have arthritis in my left knee and right hand, and is leaning towards a torn meniscus - hope it's not that though!
  • SkippyMom
    September 24, 2014 at 12:45 pm Cue "Twilight Zone Music" - For my birthday [Sept. 16th] I picked lamb chops for dinner and carrot cake [from scratch - grate those carrots Pooldad!] for my cake. I hate to admit it, [and will Tony] but I think we might have been separated at birth. He copied my birthday meal. :) Biz - do you have a stand mixer? If you don't, get yourself one. We couldn't afford a Kitchen Aid, so we bought a refurbished Hamilton Beach. It's yellow - and so damn happy. I named her Betsy. Anyhoodle....the only thing I can't do with her is grind meat [Kitchen Aids you can] but for $60 purchased over a decade ago? I wouldn't trade her for the world. And icing will be your friend. So will homemade whipped cream [and if you make it with sweetner substitute bonus!] and fluffier cakes and damn the things does it all for me. If our house ever caught fire I am pushing the family and the pets out the door and grabbing the mixer. I found it at a kitchen store at an outlet mall. Best money I ever paid. IF you have one I have a fail safe icing recipe. My cake had cinnamon icing instead of cream cheese icing, but I make both. I am loving the updates of your trip to NYC. I am so NOT surprised that you helped the [eventual] winner find a key ingredient. You are the best. I wish the judges had known that. Please know how incredibly proud we are of you, and tho' you may not have won first place, you truly are first to all of us. You ARE the best Biz. Love you.
  • Biz
    September 24, 2014 at 1:15 pm Aw, such a sweet comment Skippy - love it! Yep, I have my parents old KitchenAid - I believe they bought it in 1985 and it still runs amazing. Once I realized my Mom only used it once a year, I "borrowed" it and ahem, have never returned it. :D Next time I need frosting, I'll definitely go to you for instructions! And yes, you must have been separated at birth!
  • Erin
    September 25, 2014 at 12:56 pm OMG your brother's post is perfect. Happy Birthday Mama Bizzy! :)
  • Stacie
    September 27, 2014 at 8:17 am Happy Birthday Tony! I can't wait to read about the contest (I decided to read in order even though I'm late to the party!
  • Shauna
    September 27, 2014 at 7:29 pm What a fun time we had on our trip-so glad to get to know these three ladies. Love the post Biz :)