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!

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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. 

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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!

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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!