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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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Spicy Margarita, Bread, and Something for the Dogs

This past weekend was pretty low key – and one of the first weekends that Mister and I both had busy Saturdays planned separately.  While Mister went skiing with my Dad, I met a few women for brunch in Manhattan.

It is nice being walking distance to a Metro North station in Westchester – within 35-40 ish minutes I can go from my front door to Grand Central. Thankfully, the women I met up with were kind enough to choose a place just a few blocks from Grand Central to make brunch even easier.

Salvation Taco was the perfect spot for a girl’s brunch ; there was a steady stream of spicy margaritas and sangria while we were able to lounge around a coffee table on couches.   Thankfully one of us took command and ordered food for the table, which meant we were all able to share tacos, quesadillas, and wings. Everything had great flavor, and I personally loved the extra salty chips that came with an order of guacamole.

By Sunday morning, we were both excited for a lazy couch day – especially Mister after a very early and long day of skiing. We had mini bagels with the works [i.e. smoked salmon, tomato slices, and red onion] and coffee while on the couch. 010.JPG

While waiting for the coffee to brew, I spied the bread cookbook my Mom  had gifted me last week and thought the rainy Sunday was a great time to give something a try.

Bread Illustrated   is an America’s Test Kitchen cookbook – which means I was in love with it before even cracking the binding. For all beginners, scientists, curious cooks, or experimenters – try America’s Test Kitchen. What I love is they explain the why and the how to every single thing. For example, with my favorite meatloaf recipe of their’s – they showed the results from baking it in a glass loaf pan, a metal loaf pan, and free form on a sheetpan. They explain the merits of each situation, and ultimately recommend free form on a sheetpan for the ability to crisp up all the edges. I trust their recipes because they work, and they explain why.

Bread and rice seem to be my two nemesis in the kitchen. I can’t cook rice, and I struggle with bread.

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While it didn’t rise as much as I would’ve liked, the Whole Wheat variation on the American Sandwich Bread was perfection. The taste, texture, and even crust was really impressive. Thanks to the cookbook, I think I was able to pinpoint why the rise wasn’t ideal [water wasn’t warm enough for the yeast in the first rise, and it might’ve been too cold/drafty in my kitchen for the second rise].

I can confidently say, however, that I used said bread for my lunchtime sandwich at work today.  Feels pretty good to say, hey look I made this! [I didn’t actually do that, because I’m pretty sure that would just be strange. But like if someone asked…]

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While all this baking was going on , I felt bad for the dogs. Yes I’m a crazy dog mom, but we keep the dog treats on the counter where I was baking and they kept running in exactingly.  Since I had the oven going, and we weren’t doing anything other than laundry and watching tv most of the day, I decided to try a batch of dog biscuits as well.

I happened to have a set of dog related cookie cutters we had received as a wedding gift – so I was able to come up with a pretty sizeable batch of dog bone shaped treats.  I purposely under baked them by a few minutes, to keep them soft per my dogs’ preference.  These were a HUGE hit – so much so that I’m considering making them as regularly as I can.

 

A surprise and an intention

Yesterday morning I played around with doing a little yoga first thing in the morning. I’m not at the level of awareness or yogi-ability to really settle into a morning practice without any guidance, so during a break in the day I researched some free online yoga options to get started on the right track.

Down a YouTube yoga black hole I did find exactly what I was looking for: Yoga with Adriene’s 30 Day Yoga Journey Its completely free, and you can sign up to get the videos emailed to you every day for 30 days or you can scroll through the sequences on her website. I’m writing it down here as a form of accountability – hopefully 31 days from today I can write about how it went.

What better way to prep for a 30 day yoga journey than by a midweek trip to the bar. We’ve all had those days; work was long, coworkers were terrible, traffic was a nightmare. Sometimes you and Mister just need a beer and some catch up time outside the house.

We stopped by Fogarty’s in Bronxville, which isn’t the closest place to our house but just about the third closest option. We’ve never gone through the door to the dining room, always left straight to the bar side. Its a calm crowd, the beer selection is pretty good  and its an easy choice. Mister likes that its an Irish bar with Irish bartenders; feels more right.  Last night I was feeling kind of hungry in a, maybe we should eat something that resembles dinner, sort of way. But neither of us were really starving.

I ordered the chicken tenders with fries to share, expecting an easy salty snack to tide us over for the night. 026.JPG

I was so excited about what they put out, that I cut it open and took a picture.  In a bar. On a weeknight. Sober.

These aren’t frozen chicken tenders. They’re beer battered beautiful chunks of chicken breast.  They’re crunchy, and just a tiny bit salty.  I would’ve easily eaten them myself if I didn’t have one of those weird husbands that actually expects to share my food when we say yea lets share a plate.

 

New Years Eve Tradition

Everyone has their traditions for New Years Eve – their ideal evening for ushering in a fresh start.

Last New Years Eve was our first weekend sleeping in our new home. Mister’s brother and sister in law came over for dinner to celebrate our move and the new year all at once. This meant a scramble in the kitchen to find plates (we did not own one matching set), learn how the oven works (we’ve since purchased an in oven thermometer), and decide how to best accommodate more than two people in our small eat in kitchen.

It has been an entire year since that impromptu dinner and thinking back I’m so happy with how far we’ve come. In the past 12 months, our house has become our home. We’ve been blessed with wedding gifts of matching sets of dishes, serving ware, and stemware. And we’ve gotten much better at making other people feel comfortable in our small home. I hope.

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I had ordered beef filet from PeaPod – and Mister requested twice baked potatoes. Which in reflecting on our past four New Years Eve meals – we’ve apparently always had some version of this.

My sister was quick to point out that we’ve had four sets of dishes in four years. Which isn’t exactly the case. The square plates were mine from my apartment, but there were only three plates in the set (the fourth was broken early on) so they were given up when we moved into our apartment. The blue round plates were Steve’s from his apartment, and there were also an odd number of plates, and no small plates. The blue and white anchor set were a gift from when I worked at the USS Slater – and we genuinely use for special occasions only since we have a complete setting for two. In hindsight I should’ve used them for this meal.

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Above is the set of dishes that now inhabit our cabinets.  We have an entire set of these – everything from soup plates to serving sets and I love their classic simplicity.

That phrase can also be applied to our dinner – filet topped with blue cheese and mushrooms, oven roasted carrots and asparagus, twice baked potato.

In all honesty, I don’t love twice baked potatoes. I would much rather have mashed potatoes and/or potato skins. Mister doesn’t even eat the skin so that’s an argument I bring up every year – why can’t we just eat mashed potatoes?! But its a tradition, and he only asks for them once a year so I oblige.

This blog actually gave me the inspiration for our dessert – in looking back on old posts I came across the rice pudding recipe. I hadn’t made any since that one time so I thought it would be something different to add to our menu. I did add some booze soaked raisins this time, and I loved it even more.

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How could I resist serving it up in these dishes I inherited from my grandmother? I think they’re dessert dishes – though I’ve seen in Mad Men-esque movies that they’re used for cocktails on occasion. Throw some boozy raisins on top and sip away at the rice pudding, I guess. Or not, that sounds terrible.

I had planned a cheese plate, and some appetizers as well – but we ate at around 7:30 and then I started prepping some dishes for our New Years Day brunch. By the time the table was cleared and reset, and the food all set, I took a quick nap and then it was midnight.

 

Weekend WrapUp

Happy Monday!

This past weekend I meal prepped again, Mister and I both agreed we liked the convenience of fully prepared and packaged meals versus just a big ol’ container of say chicken and another tupperware of veggies, so we’re going to stick with this format.

I ordered the containers via Amazon, they’re the Fitpacker brand and so far so good.  I’m actually considering investing in some of the sectioned off containers for snacks or easier packing of different meals.  But let me make sure I can keep this good habit up before I go down that path.

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This week I kept it simple, Mister and I each got five containers of the same meal (1 per weekday for lunch or dinner per our schedule)  Mashed sweet potatoes, mini meatloaf, zucchini and summer squash.  Easy. It helps if you lay out the logistics of what you’re trying to do ahead of time.

  • preheat the oven for the meatloaf
  • get the potatoes in water, bring to a boil on a back burner
  • mix up meatloaf, form, put in oven
  • chop up onions/garlic/veggies
  • saute veggies (or you can throw them in the oven)
  • puree/mash potatoes
  • put everything in containers and refrigerate

From start to finish, this was about two hours.  And at least thirty minutes of that was me on the couch watching TV.

For breakfast this weekend, I’m still on my big avocado toast binge.

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Mash the avocado right onto some toast, drizzle with lemon or lime juice, salt and pepper.  There’s something so satisfyingly decadent about this simple recipe.

In the glass is greek yogurt mixed with berries.  With the parfait and the toast for breakfast, I’ve got healthy fats, protein, a little sugar, complex carb, sweet, and savory.  And the hardest part was making the toast.

On Sunday it was the anniversary of Mister asking me to be his wife, so we took a break from food prepping and wedding planning to enjoy some sunshine.  We debated where to go, and just by chance ended up taking our dogs to the same dog park where we met three years ago.

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(Bulldogs aren’t built for endurance)

I wanted to cook up something special for dinner, without incorporating our go to steak and potatoes.  Since it was nice out, Mister wanted to grill, but I had my belly set on pasta.

We picked up some italian sausage for the grill, and then the ingredients for a healthier version of a creamy pasta.

If you’ve never mixed ricotta cheese with pesto; do it now.  Ricotta can be the easiest way to make a creamy pasta dish, without tons of cream/butter/parmesan type foods (especially since both Mister and I have dairy sensitive bellies).

  • boil pasta water
  • slice and saute garlic and baby bella mushrooms, set aside in a bowl
  • trim and saute green beans, add to the bowl
  • add the pasta to the water whenever its boiling, set a timer so you don’t have to pay attention
  • thinly slice and saute yellow or red pepper, add to the bowl
  • when there’s only a few minutes left on the pasta, add chopped up broccoli florets to the pot.
  • drain pasta/broccoli
  • toss the veggies, pasta, ricotta, cheese, pesto all together.

At this point, it looked great but was missing a little pizzaz.  I thought for a minute and realized that ricotta usually needs a little acid to jazz it up; so I grabbed a whole lemon and squeezed it into the dish, along with a hearty dose of salt and pepper.

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I plated up the pasta and veggies in wide pasta bowls, and sliced the sausage on the side.  Mister did a perfect job grilling the sausage to crispy, charred goodness.

 

Birthday Dinner, Bears Steakhouse

  
This glorious platter of chateaubriand was just one of the courses we were served Saturday evening at Bears Steakhouse in Duanesburg, NY. 

After hearing and reading a ton of great things about this place, I thought it would be a great way to splurge and celebrate Mister’s birthday. Reservations are a must, and a little tricky. 

I called about two weeks prior and, as mentioned in some reviews, either the mother or son will answer with a simple “hello.”  With no indication that you are in fact calling a restaurant, it can feel a bit like a speakeasy, or a trick. 

With my reservation I placed an order for the chateaubriand for two, and was asked to call back the Wednesday prior to confirm. After all this buildup, we were definitely looking forward to this culinary adventure. 

Despite what some reviewers have said, the place is incredibly easy to find if coming from Albany. It isn’t hidden, and there is a large sign. Located near major roads it was a quicker drive than we anticipated.  

 
It is in fact a home, and feels very much like one once you walk in.  

 
With seating for about 50 or so diners, the place was full and noisy; but in a warm and friendly way. 

We were served by the very friendly son of the mother and son duo, while Ma brought us the occasional drink or side. All of the servers seemed to run like a well oiled machine, delivering constants drinks and an endless stream of food. 

We started with very full glasses of Chardonnay and a basket of warm rolls (accompanied by packets of Cabot butter). There are no menus, instead the options are verbally listed off one course at a time once you’ve finished the prior course. 

For appetizers, Mister had their infamous shrimp cocktail.  

 This seemed to be the crowd favorite, and we both loved the strong dose of horseradish in the cocktail sauce. 

  I had these perfectly sour-spicy peppers stuffed with prosciutto and provolone, with roasted red peppers and pickled garlic. Neither were knock your socks off inventive, but they were good in a way that you could feel the tradition, family, and nostalgia invested in this place. 
We had the choice of salad or Ma’s Italian chicken vegetable soup up next, and we both went with the soup. 

  
It was really good. The glistening drops of fat decorating the broth stood as testament to the home made nature of the soup, and there was such an intense flavor that it could be stood alone without any meat or veggies. But there was pelt you of shredded chicken, greens, corn, and carrots. In all honesty, we could’ve stopped here. But then came the main course.  

 Served as a hefty platter of sliced tenderloin, carrots, and two baked potatoes we were hesitant to dive in. Almost full from the two previous courses, we each sipped a little more wine and took a few deep breaths. 

  Cooked perfectly and fork tender, this was the definition of something being like butter. It was if cutting was wholly unnecessary; the meat melted with each bite. It wasn’t until after our first slice that I had a hankering for some horseradish to balance out the buttery unctuous meat. 

We hardly made a dent in the gorgeous display, and it was graciously packed up (with the requested horseradish). 

Since it was Mister’s birthday celebration, we had to further indulge in some dessert.  

 
The coconut cream pie was the icing on this cake. The flaky crust, the pile of whipped cream; it felt like you were leaving Grandmas house after a holiday meal. We were stuffed and laden with leftovers. 

Pro tip: The next morning for breakfast I toasted some bread, slathered it with mayo and horseradish, topped with thinly sliced beef. I could eat that every morning forever. Easily. 

Swifty’s, Delmar

Its fairly fitting that today on FussyLittleBlog, the post is about a healthier burger; my own post is about an incredibly unhealthy burger brought to my attention by the same blogger.

Mister and I arrived at Swifty’s in Delmar at about 6:15pm on Friday, and could tell there was something to get excited about.  This small restaurant was filled with families and couples, lined up near the door waiting for their seats with almost aggressive anticipation. We were given a wait time of about 30 minutes, so we headed to the bar for a drink.

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We were able to wiggle our way into two seats at the bar, despite the crowd, where we had drinks (Saranac Legacy IPA) and an order of BBQ wings to get started.

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I was enthusiastic about the beers on tap, but less than excited about the soggy wings.  Though the BBQ sauce was great, there was not one crispy bite.

Once seated, we went straight for a shared order Loaded Waffle Fries, and a shared Swifty’s Buffalo Burger (salad on the side, we are trying to focus on healthier foods some of the time I promise).006

Any disappointment from the wings served at the bar dissipated, once we were presented with the Swifty’s Buffalo Burger.

The menu description reads:

Do not be intimidated by this one-of-a-kind burger! Hand breaded, deep fried crisp and golden finished in buffalo sauce

The hype was spot on.

For starters, I think Mister and I were both surprised when we were asked how we would like it cooked (medium) and it was actually delivered with a juicy red center.  How can they possibly cook a burger so well AND deep fry it?  That is a true talent.

Its crispy. Juicy. Spicy….the bun is a little sweet.  We abandoned the fries and both inhaled our halves of the burger with minimal discussion.

Next time, we’re definitely getting two.