Museum of the Month: February

This year, Mister and I have decided to visit one New York City area museum per month – in an effort to get out and do more, but also to help Mister really feel more a part of the area. This is also a vaguely selfish plan: I have a Master’s in Public History, aka I specialized in museum studies. Museums are my thing, so this is a way to get Mister more into them. Hopefully.  I planned out a schedule of 12 museum/sites, and so far we’ve been two for two.

In January we visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art with a quick stop at the Cloisters on our way home.  This was a huge hit – full suits of armor, incredible artwork, mummies.

085.JPG

One really important thing to note about *most* NYC museums – the admission fees are “suggested donation amounts.” What that means, is that while it says $25 per person admission, you can still pay $1 and get the same ticket.

February, I kept up the theme of the big classics by choosing the Museum of Natural History.   Not at big of a hit, I’ll be honest. The first floor felt crazy dated, but thats almost part of the appeal of the place in a way. The dinosaurs were pretty cool. But I mean, how many bone displays can you look at with awe? No, maybe just me?

049.JPG

087.JPG

Of course all the dinosaur spotting paired with the rainy weather made me want a snack before we headed back home.

A quick Yelp search gave us Levain Bakery  , which ended up being on the block between the museum and our car.

117.JPG

There was no line when we walked in to get cookies, but while we were sitting inside eating them, the line backed up long enough to just about hit the door. Luck was definitely on our side that afternoon.

123.JPG

We sort of panic ordered – thats where we see a short menu and just yell things out without any discussion. Mister got the walnut chocolate chip, I got the dark chocolate peanut butter.

These are big, [under baked] gooey, bites of cookie goodness. First bite verdict: dark chocolate peanut butter was way better. Last bite verdict: walnut chocolate chip was better. Thankfully we had a bottle of water with us, because that dark chocolate monster was so rich it was almost hard to get down after a few bites.

128.JPG

I mean, I’m not complaining about either cookie. Trust me, these were both intensely good. If you’re going to share, go for the dark chocolate; otherwise stick with a classic.

We paid $5 per person museum admission, parked for free on the street, and treated ourselves to cookies afterwards.  It was a pretty fun rainy day date for just about $20.  I call that a win.

Advertisements

Sur La Table: Pasta Reinvented

For my birthday, my sister in law gifted me a cooking class at Sur La Table. After a few back and forths, we nailed down a date and class that worked with both of our schedules.

We met up at The Westchester location, which is between where she lives in CT and my house in lower Westchester. We didn’t plan on the class starting at the same time the mall opened, so we had to do a few laps to kill time before we got started.

I had taken cooking class in Albany with Chef Gio while living in Albany [highly recommend for all levels of cooking!!] but hadn’t taken any cooking classes at a more commercial type setting.  The kitchen set up at Sur La Table was impressive, and the chef we had as an instructor was great at keeping things moving while entertaining us on a Saturday morning.

010.JPG

We definitely started off on the right foot with complimentary cappuccinos and focaccia. Since the class started at 10am, it was the perfect timing for a pick me up.

011.JPG

One thing about the kitchen that was really well thought out – there was an angled mirror above the chef’s work station so that the whole room could see what was going on without straining to peer around or stand on their tip toes. We were lucky to be part of a small class [ 8 people total], but it still felt very Food Network.

014.JPG

The title of the class was Pasta Reinvented – meant to be twists on traditional pasta dishes.

Menu: Sweet Potato Gnocchi & Hazelnut Gremolata – Corn Flour Pappardelle & Slow-Cooked Beef Rib Ragu – Caesar Pasta Salad with Anchovy Croutons

Class Description: Bored with boxed noodles? Rethink pasta—put a delicious twist on classic gnocchi and use corn to create a classic pappardelle with an alternative flour. Plus, we’ll show you how to add depth of flavor with easy braising techniques and round out the meal with a jazzed-up Caesar salad.

I learned a great tip for how to hold my knife the right more correct way when chopping – and it was really interesting to go through some basic prep for each dish. It was definitely a hands on class, with lots of time for questions.

The most surprising thing about the class, was what I ended up liking the most; while I started the class really interested in the short rib ragu – it was a tie between the gnocchi and the ceasar for my favorite.

The Chefstructor [yes I made that up] wasn’t shy to explain that he didn’t create the recipes, and he would’ve thickened the ragu up more. That was one of the biggest differences between going to a more commercialized class like this Sur La Table class sponsored by Kitchenaid versus an independent class like Chef Gio. With Chef Gio – they were his recipes that he tweaked, and he was showing you exactly what he recommended and how to duplicate it. This class, however, was more of a direct cookbook demonstration with some expert level instruction.

025

The corn pappardelle was a miss for me, but maybe would be popular for someone maintaining a gluten free diet. It was too dense and for some reason reminded me of a soup noodle in a bad, off-brand freeze dried soup mix.  I can’t really pin point that correlation though.

029.JPGI almost don’t want to admit how many serving spoonfuls of this Caesar salad I had. The dressing was made fresh in a blender [so easy, I will actually try this soon], while the oil from the anchovies was used to make the croutons. I said it at least five times while eating, but I want to eat this for lunch every day. Forever. It was so light, and crunchy, and had so much flavor without any salt or pepper being added anywhere.

027.JPG

Then there was the sweet potato gnocchi with hazelnut gremulata. I don’t even know what gremulata means. But I like saying it over and over again because this dish was everything. Sister and I agreed this would be an epic Thanksgiving sidedish. Sage and sweet potato gnocchi broiled under cheese and topped with a combination of hazelnuts, parsley, and parmesan.  It was savory, melty, not too sweet or salty, crunchy bits.  All that aside, as a bonus its a pretty gorgeous dish.

I’m so excited that I gifted Mom a class for the holidays as well – so I’m excited to see what she picks for us to try. As a little reward for paying to take these classes, Sur La Table offers a 10% discount on anything in the store for a few days after you take the class. We definitely took advantage stocking up on a few gadgets we had used during the class [ hello lemon squeezer!], and I picked up a magnetic timer that I’m already in love with. So win win!

Peanut Noodle Bowls

I have a very clear memory of sitting at the small kids table in the front room [“the piano room” which later became “the computer room”] of my Mom’s house and being served a giant bowl of peanut noodles. I know there were other kids there, otherwise we would’ve been eating at the regular kitchen table. I know it was summer, or at least warm and sunny out. But other than that, my memory is really of the giant serving bowl filled with peanut butter goodness.

For me, as a child, peanut noodles felt like a trick that adults hadn’t quite figured out. Like Nutella, I wanted to point out that peanut butter was too delicious to be allowed for dinner. Especially over spaghetti.

080.JPG

Even as an adult, peanut noodles feel like getting away with something.

But the other night, I made us heaping bowls of peanut noodles with broccoli, a little chicken for Mister and some leftover tofu for mine.

091.JPG

I followed the recipe from The Girl Who Ate Everything blog and it was exactly what I was looking for; the only change I made was I added more water to thin the recipe out quite a bit.

While the sauce was being made, I diced up a chicken breast for Mister and cooked it in a pan while simultaneously steaming some broccoli in the microwave and boiling pasta water.

I had completely forgotten about this little microwave steamer I picked up from Sears a few years ago.  I’m sure it would be easy to find something similar on Amazon, and it really is helpful for quick cooking as an alternative to buying those frozen Steam Fresh type veggie bags.

087

10 Minute Meal for Two

While getting the ingredients for Valentine’s Day dinner extravaganza at The Fresh Market, I happened to see a pre-packaged meal kit in the produce section that piqued my curiosity enough for me to give it a try.

The meal kit was in a clear, plastic container and contained all the ingredients for a dinner for 2, to be cooked in 10 minutes, and cost $16.  At 6:30pm on Tuesday, they had two options available:

Shrimp Scampi with Squash Blend & Wild Rice Pilaf or Moroccan Harissa chicken with Squash Blend and Cilantro Lime Rice. Looking online , they have a few more options but all include a protein, vegetable, and starch.  In comparison to the Meal Kits that PeaPod offers, they’re based more on whole foods versus canned/packaged ingredients, and this one was certainly more affordable than most FreshDirect options.

The directions are printed right on the label for the kit, and were pretty straightforward. My only real gripe at the start was that the ingredients weren’t labeled. This might sound strange, but there’s an oil packet, two seasoning packets, and a sauce packets. Since the oil had been refrigerated, it solidified a bit – and I had to spend a few minutes just double checking the whole recipe with all the packets to make sure I knew what happened when.

Other than that, the whole recipe did really come together in 10 minutes, with one pan and the microwave.

I was nervous about the scampi sauce, since it was really sort of gloppy looking. But it was incredibly light, lemony, and not heavy at all.  Mister even thought that the summer squash in the bowl might’ve been lemon wedges by accident because it was such a fresh lemon flavor [in comparison to that slightly cleaning product-esque lemon flavoring found in a lot of pre packaged products].

012.JPG

As I was plating it up, I got curious about the nutrition information.

Please note that the nutrition facts say 4.5 servings per container, when on the front of the packaging it very clearly says serves 2. What is the point in this??

I did some math [you’re welcome], and 260 calories x 4.5 servings = 1,170 calories in the entire kit. Divide that by 2 and you get 585 calories per serving. Factoring in that I left most of the extra sauce in the pan, I’m sure our actual calories were just slightly lower. Not bad, so why play around with the serving size information on the back?

Weirdness aside, it was a great meal that did cook in 10 minutes. Thumbs up Fresh Market.

Mr. and Mrs. Valentine

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day – and I don’t know why, but I love celebrating holidays. Even the ones that people say are fake or too commercialized; what is so wrong about sharing love and appreciating who we having in our lives? Especially after hearing about the tragedy in Florida – take a moment to appreciate who you have.

I started the day early with an at home yoga session [as part of my 30 day yoga journey].  I even treated myself to a new yoga mat this week as a form of some self love. I read a quote on social media that has been resonating with me,  “you can’t fill from an empty cup”. Take care of yourself, put on your own oxygen mask first.

037

After yoga I put in a donut order via the Dunkin Donuts app. They were actually running a special on Valentine’s Day for bonus points if you ordered a dozen donuts. I’m not sure if all locations are as efficient, but the one closest to my house was impressive. I walked in, grabbed the waiting box of donuts, and walked out.  They even apologized that one of the donuts I had requested wasn’t available – so they threw in two donuts of their choice to replace it.

Look at all those happy hearts and sprinkles.  How can you be upset when you start your work day with a heart shaped donut?

039

They aren’t healthy, they aren’t home made, they aren’t gourmet. But they’re happy and fun and sometimes you have to eat the heart shaped donuts with pink frosting because its Valentine’s Day.

012

Then came the main event. Dinner.

This was our first Valentine’s Day as husband and wife. I wanted to make a big deal about it. I set the table, used candles from our wedding ceremony and glasses from my Grandparents.

The night before I picked up filet mignon, cocktail shrimp, asparagus, and potatoes from the Fresh Market. Everything was an expensive splurge and it made me feel even happier that we’re in a situation where we can afford to indulge ourselves.

Mister wore a tie, I wore heels. We sipped wine, exchanged presents. It was exactly what we wanted it to be.

The meat was under cooked after our first attempt, but we figured it out together after some combined online searches. It was so incredibly tender and definitely worth the splurge.

I had even planned for a dessert of cheesecake and strawberries, but after everything we snuggled up on the couch with wine and a box of chocolates.

Here’s to Valentine’s Day. To love. To newlyweds, to families, to laughter, to happily ever after. Eat your donuts, share a meal, take some time. And always fill your own up first.

Falafel at Home

I’m in love with the falafel from Tzatziki Grill in New Rochelle – they’re soft on the inside, crispy, spicy. I eat almost an entire order to myself every time we order takeout.

When I saw a box of falafel mix at Stop & Shop this past weekend, it inspired me to try making an at home version.  Falafel mix, tahini, some olives, and some feta for good measure.

It was surprisingly easy – and yes I know its because I didn’t really make the falafel from scratch. I get it.

Falafel mix + water. Set aside.

Scoop into the shape you want – fry in a lot of oil.

Drain. Layer on pita with lots of toppings.

Making the tahini dressing was only slightly more complicated.

Mix tahini paste, water, fresh squeezed lemon juice, and salt. I had to keep tasting and adjusting to get it where I wanted it – which seems to be the basis of this recipe.

The flatbreads I also picked up at Stop & Shop; they were really good and the nutritional information was incredible. 15 grams of protein, 20 grams of carbs, and 180 calories per pita.

Flatbread, tahini, shredded romaine, sliced tomatoes, feta, red onion, falafel.

Olives and stuffed grape leaves [canned from Trader Joes] on the side.

I had one, Mister had 1.5 with the other 1.5 packed up for his lunch. I take that level of enthusiasm as the highest compliment.

025.JPG

Sometimes I impress myself with how well I pack up his lunch.