Citrus Coconut Drink Two Ways: Virgin and with Malibu

16 Aug

Yamas

My alumnae book club was coming over the other day to talk about Moira Weigel‘s Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating, and my apartment was as hot as a sweatbox. I decided to whip up a variation of Kellie Van’s Le Zoe Musing’s Citrus Coconut Soda, which I’d found on Pinterest, to keep everyone cool and refreshed. It looked so pretty and sounded so tasty! There are quite a number of women in the book club who are pregnant or who just had children or who don’t drink, so I thought it would be better than offering soda or regular H2O. Plus, it occurred to me I could alter the recipe for version with alcohol in it for those who wanted a stronger drink.

A note on the coconut soda

Now, here’s where things got a little interesting. I had never heard of coconut soda, and the Le Zoe Musing recipe didn’t specify a brand or where to find it. I went to Whole Foods and considered purchasing coconut water and lime seltzer. If you can’t find coconut soda, I think that would be a great solution. Lo and behold, though, I discovered that LaCroix makes coconut soda!

I first tried LaCroix when I visited my friends in DC last summer. It’s so delightfully summery with its sparkling bubbles. It’s all natural and comes in a variety of traditional and unique flavors like peach pear and melon pomelo (cantaloupe + grapefruit). It’s also inexpensive so great to keep stocked in the fridge for whenever guests pop by. No, this is not a sponsored post. I just am excited by this new discovery!

 

Virgin Citrus Coconut Soda

  1. Wash various citrus fruits. The Le Zoe Musing recipe called for grapefruit, orange, lemon, and lime. I love grapefruit but I was worried it wouldn’t fit too easily in the cups I own, so I just used orange, lemon, and lime.
  2. Slice the citrus into circles. The Leo Zoe Musing recipe put all the ingredients in a pitcher. I think this is a great way to allow the flavors to really permeate the drink. However, I was worried that the drink would lose its bubbles so I put the citrus on a plate and made each drink individually. When you’re ready to make the drink, place the citrus into the cups. I suggest one of each citrus circle. This is important to do first so that there’s less splashing and less mess.
  3.  Pour the coconut soda over the citrus slices in the cup.
  4. Feel free to muddle a bit or serve without muddling the citrus. Yamas! (That’s Greek for “To your health!”)

 

Malibu Citrus Soda

  1. Follow steps 1 through 3.
  2. Add a dash of splash of Malibu Rum. My proportions were about 1/4 Malibu and 1/4 coconut soda.
  3. Cheers! Yamas!

 

The beverages were a hit!

CitrusCoconutSoda

 

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August and Everything After

10 Aug

CountingCrowsAugustandEverythingAfter

It’s August. How did that happen? This summer seems to have flown by. What do I have to show for it? A faded sunburn. An outdoor theatre experience. A few trips out to the boroughs, where it’s much more pleasant to dine al fresco. A writing intensive that resulted in a couple more chapters of my memoir written. But have I lived a life worthy of a new memoir?

Have I seized the day? Have I made it to the Met to see the rooftop installation? Have I stuck my toes into the cold waters of the Atlantic? Have I rode the Wonder Wheel? Have I packed my bags and jetted off to an exotic location? No. It feels like most days I have been bogged down with freelance work. Bogged down with obligations. Bogged down with emotions. Bogged down with rain.

It’s so easy to lose track of time. The older I get, the faster time flies.

In 1993 Counting Crows put out August and Everything After. The album is perhaps the most influential album on my life. My friend lent me the album, and I played it on my walkman over and over and over and over. I remember sitting in the car while my family shopped at a gardening store and just listening to the album on repeat. The melancholy lyrics spoke to my teenaged self. The album got me into the literature of Saul Bellow, who became one of my favorite authors. Years later, a friend in college and I bonded over our adoration of the album. Sometime later, another friend and I went to see the Counting Crows in concert with the Goo Goo Dolls. Years after that, a boyfriend put one of the songs on a mixtape for me. Then years after that, another boyfriend also liked Counting Crows. The years pile up. More memories get made.

And now it’s August and I’m wondering what the “Everything After” is….

 

Happy National Book Lovers Day!

9 Aug

StephanieNikolopoulos2

“There is no mistaking a real book when one meets it. It’s like falling in love.” ~ Christopher Morley

Happy National Book Lovers Day!

I don’t read as much as I used to these days. Or, maybe I read more. It’s hard to tell. As an editor, I read all day at my job. But it’s a different type of reading. It’s more like a spot-the-difference puzzle, where I’m on the lookout for Briticisms and double punctuation marks. It’s not reading for pleasure, though it is pleasurable.

I am a book lover.

Much of my life is what it is because of books. My mother used to bribe me with books when I was a child. Books opened up a world to me. Reading became not just an activity but a refuge, and not just a refuge but a part of my identity. When I went away to camp, I took a sign language class. We were told to use the letter from our first name and the sign for an activity we enjoyed to create a unique name for ourselves. My name was an “S” opening a book.

Later, in high school, I dropped math class and took an extra English class in addition to my AP English class. My first or second semester of college, I took three English classes at the same time. It was wonderful! It felt so me. I felt like I was living out my true self. On spring break, I went to City Lights in San Francisco and dragged my best friend around the city, reading her Lawrence Ferlinghetti‘s poems.

I absorbed myself in the pages of books for hours at a time, discovering not just kindred spirits and captivating lands but turns of phrases and how punctuation influenced a reading. When I learned to read, I also began to learn to write. Reading and writing were two sides of the same coin for me. One inspired the other. I am at my best, I feel my most authentic, when I am involved in both.

A few years ago, while working full time in book publishing and going to grad school full time for creative writing, I co-authored Burning Furiously Beautiful. It was a wild, intense time. I would wake up early before work and edit, a habit this non-morning person is not a natural at. I turned down plans with friends. I surrounded myself with books. And you know what? I miss it.

I miss the intensity of reading and writing and breathing words. I miss being assigned books that challenge me. I miss being exposed to new ideas. I miss the deadlines. I miss the workshops. I miss the camaraderie. I miss the solitude. The quiet nights. The passionate flurry of ideas.

I recently did a writing intensive with some friends. We tried to push out twenty pages a week. That’s more than I was required to do in grad school. It felt good. It wasn’t necessarily sustainable, but it got me back into the habit. As well, I’m doing the Goodreads reading challenge and trying to read a book a week. I’m woefully behind. Woefully. But it has gotten me back into the habit of reading for pleasure. I ask people to recommend books to me, so I still am being exposed to things I wouldn’t normally select for myself. Sometimes my friends read the same books; sometimes I read the book for my book club; sometimes I read the book for Bible study; and sometimes I get around to reading the books I excitedly bought but remained on my bookshelves. I read on the subway. I read in bed. I read in the bathtub. I read on NJ Transit.

And I’m about to read right now before bed! I’m finally getting around to reading Vivian Gornick‘s The Odd Woman and the City.

 

Charles Dickens Quote on August

8 Aug

SNikolopouloswebsite

“There is no month in the whole year in which nature wears a more beautiful appearance than in the month of August.”

~Charles Dickens in The Pickwick Papers

 

You may also be interested in how Jack Kerouac’s hometown inspired Dickens.

 

The Olympics: Invented by the Greeks

5 Aug

Ancient Olympics Nikolopoulos

We Greeks like to claim we invented just about everything.

The most famous? We invented democracy.

If you’ve watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding — 1 or 2 — you know that Greeks invented any word you can think of. This is not an exaggeration. I grew up hearing my father explain to me the Greek root to English words all … the … time.

We even invented cheesecake.

And, we invented the Olympics.

You’re welcome, by the way.

Today is opening ceremonies for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It’s always an exciting event, with a lot of intense political and social history.

I had the amazing experience of attending the Summer Olympics when they were in Athens, Greece! You can see a few photos from that trip here.

I’ve also been several time to the site of the Ancient Olympics. The first Olympics were held in Olympia, Greece. This happens to be on the Peloponnese peninsula where my father grew up, so I grew up visiting there and then as an adult brought my own friends there. You can see my Ancient Greek Olympics photographs from over the years here.

The Greeks invented the Olympics in the 8th century BC to celebrate the mythological Greek god Zeus. Consequently, they were not just about athletics but were highly religious: there were two temples and an altar built. During Antiquity, the games were held every four years. The Olympic games were opened up to all citizens of the Roman Empire during the Roman rule. The games were held until Theodosius I, a Christian emperor of the Roman Empire, banned the pagan rituals of the Olympic games in the 4th century AD. After him, Theodosius II had the temple to Zeus destroyed. For details on the Ancient Greek Olympics, read up here.

For the official modern-day Olympics, visit the Olympics website.

 

Sometimes it’s fun to think of what Olympic games I’d invent if I were in charge of the games today. Here are my picks:

 

  • Olive wreath crown-making
  • Subway turnstile hurdling
  • Best personal essay about gym class
  • Speed typing
  • Freestyle walking

Go, team, go!

 

 

 

 

The Starving Artist: Savory Nectarine Salad

3 Aug
SavoryNectarineSalad 
I am so mad! It was raining on Sunday, and I desperately wanted to avoid having to lug my grocery bags home in the rain. Ah, the perils of a fabulous Manhattan lifestyle! So, the starving artist, though trying to be better about pinching pennies, caved and bought lunch out on Monday. (Dos Toros, if you want to know.) So, I wrap up work later than intended (it’s ALWAYS later than intended), walked across town (my exercise plan), and went to the grocery store.
My neighbor, E, had left fresh basil on my doorknob so I knew I wanted to make something with that. But what? I remembered seeing a peach caprese appetizer on Pinterest (the recipe was from Say Yes and re-blogged on Bloglovin’), and it occurred to me I could riff off that. I decide, what if I make something like that but with nectarines instead and turn it into a more savory and filling salad by adding tomatoes?
So, I get all the ingredients, go home, wash everything, and make the salad. I’m feeling very proud of myself for adulting so successfully—brown-bagging it instead of eating out? Check! Salad instead of pasta? Check! Adding a new recipe to my repertoire? Check! Tuesday morning arrives, and I take the pre-made salad out of the fridge and place it in my bag … and then I get distracted, AND LEAVE THE SALAD BEHIND. I of course don’t realize this til I’ve already gotten on the train. There’s not enough time on my lunch break to go back for it, I won’t be home til late in the evening, and my apartment is a summer sweatbox so I don’t trust eating anything left out of the fridge for twelve+ hours. I ended up at Pret and will have to throw out the salad I put all that time and money and effort into. Sigh.
 
My saving grace is that I had enough to make two salads! So guess what I’ll be eating tomorrow? The salad—unless, of course, I forget it too. In that case, I might need to have my brain checked out.
 
Here is a salad recipe for those of us who hate lettuce.
Savory Nectarine Salad
 
  • Wash nectarines and cut into slices
  • Wash Campari tomatoes and cut into slices
  • Cut fresh mozzarella into slices
  • Wash the basil and use only the leaves
  • Toss all the ingredients together in a bowl and enjoy!
 
I know, I know, for all my moaning about the work that went into it, it’s super easy to make! 
 
I’ve thought up some alternatives:
 
  • Add some slices of red onion
  • Add a light vinaigrette or flavored olive oil
  • Try peaches instead of nectarines
  • Try haloumi cheese instead of mozzarella 
  • Try grilling the tomatoes and the nectarines
  • Put the ingredients between a baguette and enjoy as a sandwich 
 
I’m getting hungry just thinking about all the possibilities!
Want more possibilities? Check out my other recipes:
 
 

Peaches ‘N Cream Barbie and a Summer Peach Parfait

19 Jul

Every summer when I was growing up in New Jersey, my parents would take my sister and brother and me on a road trip down to Maryland to see our cousins. We loved spending time with our cousins in Baltimore! They were the only cousins we grew up seeing regularly, and we were all fairly close in age. Spending time with my cousins was typically the highlight of my summer. Oftentimes, they’d come back with us and spend some time at our house too.

My cousin who is three years older than me was the coolest! I idolized her. She knew about makeup and hair and french kissing. I wasn’t as into Barbies as my sister was — I was more of a homemaker Cabbage Kids type than sexy Barbie type — but we both were obsessed with our cousin’s Peaches ‘n Cream Barbie. I loved the diaphanous peach dress she wore with the white sparkly top. It was pastel perfection. We spent hours in my basement playing with the Peaches ‘N Cream Barbie. She was the best out of all the Barbies — reigning over even Mika, the beautiful Hawai’ian Barbie, after my little sister had chopped Mika’s bangs off!

PeachesNCreamBarbie

Pinterest proves I’m not the only one who associates this Barbie with childhood

This summer I’ve been eating a delightful peach parfait for breakfast that is so super creamy and delicious!

It’s easy to make too!

IMG_5507

1. Scoop a bit of your favorite vanilla yogurt into a bowl. My favorite is the Brown Cow cream top vanilla.

2. Wash and slice fresh peaches. Leave the skin on. The skin is packed with nutrients:::

Peach skin is full of nutrients and contains both vitamin C and A. Some people think that the skin can irritate the GI track because of the fuzzy/hairy texture of the skin, but this is not true. Peach skin has antioxidants and it is anti-inflammatory. But as mentioned above, avoid the pit as it contains trace amounts of cyanide.

Also, I think it probably is good for your fiber intake.

3. Top with your favorite granola. This will add some crunch and keep you full longer. I’m partial to the Purely Elizabeth and Bear Naked brands.

Voilà! A peach parfait perfect for lazy summer mornings but also quick enough to make if you’re no longer playing Barbies but scrambling to get to work.

IMG_5531

If you like this, you might want to try my other delicious yogurt recipes:::

 

10 Books of Beat Generation Letters

14 Jul

The other day I wrote about viewing Neal Cassady’s infamous “lost” Joan Anderson letter at Christie’s Auction House.. Letters are a great way to get to know and understand the writers of the Beat Generation. The novelists and poets were prodigious letter writers. Here are ten books of collected letters by the poets and writers of the Beat Generation.

1.

CassadyLetters

 Neal Cassady: Collected Letters, 1944-1967

2.

KerouacLetters

Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters, 1940-1956

3.

Carolyn

Jack Kerouac’s Dear Carolyn: Letters to Carolyn Cassady

4.

KerouacGinsberg

Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg: The Letters

5.

YageLetters

William S. Burroughs’ and Allen Ginsberg’s The Yage Letters Redux

6.

GinsbergSnyder

The Selected Letter of Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder

7.

GinsbergDad

Allen Ginsberg and his father’s Family Business: Selected Letters between a Father and Son

8.

HettieJonesLoveH

Love, H: The Letters of Helene Dorn and Hettie Jones

9.

DistantNeighbors

Distant Neighbors: The Selected Letters of Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder

10.

CorsoBiography

An Accident Autobiography: The Selected Letters of Gregory Corso

Summer Fruit Salad with Mastiha-Flavored Yogurt

12 Jul

 

The other day I spotted Homeric Mastiha in the store, and I had to try it! I’d heard of mastiha but never tried the legendary Greek liqueur. I like anything with a literary connection, and Stoupakis’ Homeric Chios Mastiha Spirit offered a unique intermingling of literature, Hellenophilia, and food and beverage.

Made from evergreen bushes found only on the Greek island of Chios, mastiha — or, gum mastic — is a Greek liqueur with a sweet and herbal finish. It’s known for its health benefits: it promotes gum health and is anti-inflammatory.

It’s a special alcoholic beverage on its own, which I’d say tastes closer to gin than ouzo. It occurred to me, though, that it would be a fun way to jazz up a summery fruit salad. I was right! I love Greek yogurt, but I have to be in the mood for it. It can be a bit sour at times. Mixing it with mastiha gives such a delightful floral taste. I’m not sure everyone would like it. It’s very Greek. If you hate loukoumi (Turkish delight), you probably won’t like anything flavored with mastiha. I, for one, thought it made the boozy fruit salad with yogurt something elegant. Here’s my recipe:::

  1. Scoop out your favorite Greek yogurt. I used plain Fage. This traditional Greek yogurt got its start in Athens in 1926. It’s known for being packed with protein and great for vegetarians, so definitely a winning combination for me!
  2. Wash and slice peaches, nectarines, and strawberries. Leaving the skins on is not only easier (yay!), but it’s also better for you! It’s got great nutrients in it. Toss the fruit over the yogurt.
  3. Douse the fruit-topped yogurt with mastiha.

It’s really that simple! I don’t have suggestions for portion size or how much mastiha I used. It’s really up to individual preference.

I packed mine in a to-go container and ate it in Central Park. It was delightful!

You may like these related blog posts:::

 

 

 

 

 

Viewing Cassady’s “Lost” Joan Anderson Letter

7 Jul

The “lost” letter that forever changed Jack Kerouac’s writing style was recently “found” and put on auction at Christie’s last month. If you’re someone who has read any biography about Kerouac, you’ve heard of the infamous “Joan Anderson letter.” You know the importance of this letter.

It is — what for it! — legendary.

I was on my way to Christie’s on the day before auction to see the letter when I ran into my coworker on the elevator. We exchanged pleasantries about what we were having for lunch, and I burst out in excitement — or at least the equivalent of bursting out in excitement for my shy nerdy self — that I was on my way to see the Joan Anderson letter. He had never heard of it. He knew very little about the Beat Generation. He asked about it, and I was somewhat at a loss for how to explain it. I started explaining that it was written by Kerouac’s friend Neal Cassady, who wrote in a fast-paced, confessional style.

But what is it about? he wanted to know.

Ah. Now I blushed. I said something about it being … “scandalous.” How could I explain the contents of the letter without sounding like I was into reading other people’s sexcapades? The forty-page letter was Cassady’s sexual exploits in 1946. It included stories about a woman named Joan Anderson in a hospital and one named Cherry Mary who got caught by her aunt.

 

It wasn’t about the subject matter, though. That was not what ever interested me. And it’s not just what interested Kerouac — or even Cassady. It was about telling a good story. Capturing it in a way that is real. Authentic. Captivating.

I had met Neal Cassady’s daughter’s husband at a reading in Greenwich Village, and he had shown me a copy of the letter. What fascinated me was the illustrations and handwritten addenda that I hadn’t known about.

I went to Christie’s auction house because I wanted to see the real letter in person. I’ve never seen the scroll version of On the Road. I missed it the last time it was in New York City about ten years ago. So seeing the Joan Anderson letter, a letter purported to have been lost and unseen by so most, was one of those literary moments I couldn’t pass up.

Having never been to Christie’s before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would I have to be patted down? Would I have to turn in my iPhone? Would I even be able to find the letter amongst all the other treasures up for auction? I was surprised to discover it was the very first thing one could possibly see upon entering Christie’s. I could only see a few pages of the letter, as the whole thing wasn’t on display. It was difficult to read the entire thing, but I tilted my head and read sections. I took the whole thing in. It was exciting. It felt like history. Perhaps the way some people feel about seeing the Constitution. I didn’t press my luck and try to take a photograph, but I carried the memory of it with me as I walked back to work.

The letter didn’t end up selling at auction. You can read about Neal Cassady’s Joan Anderson letter here, on Christie’s auction house website and here.

You can read Cassady’s letters in Neal Cassady: Collected Letters, 1944-1967.