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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Meal Prep

It was a deep rut.

Christmas, New Years, Snow Storm. Flannel pajamas, baggy sweaters, cheese, wine. Christmas cookies, french toast, more cheese.

How to break the deliciously cozy cycle when New York has been colder than Alaska lately?

ACV.

Apple cider vinegar. Its a little routine that I can never stick with too consistently (despite my best efforts), but its a great way to jump start a little nutrition and pry yourself away from caramels and Camembert.

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8 oz of cold water, squeeze half a lemon, 1 – 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar.

Drink this before you start breakfast, while you’re getting ready in the morning. Before coffee, before brushed teeth, before the stretchy pants get too comfortable.

It may be psychological, total placebo affect – but for me personally, it curbs my sweet tooth and allows me to hit the reset button my nutritional intake.

While I sipped my ACV, I cooked a big batch of food for the coming week to allow myself to really trudge through the winter apocalypse with some vitamins and hopefully a few less pounds in the stomach area.

New Year New Tradition

In my last post I noted that Mister and I eat the same dinner every year on New Years Eve. We didn’t really have a tradition for New Years Day – which seems to be the day everyone universally has off (except for my Mom this year, sorry Mom!).

With the long weekend of no plans, I knew I had some time to put together a decent brunch and liked the idea of starting a new tradition that’s all our own.  We invited my sister and her husband, and Mister’s brother and his wife – which is just about the top number of people that can fit in our kitchen. Did I mention that our house is tiny?

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Here’s everything just before we started, I’m incredibly proud of how well everything turned out. My list-making abilities paid off – as did the discovery that my magnetic notepad that I normally stick to the fridge can be stuck to the metal backsplash between our stove and the vent.

The complete menu:

Growing up Jewish, I have it ingrained in me that sweet foods should be eaten around the new year based on the idea that sweet foods are eaten on Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year.

The night before I started the baked french toast, and the pea salad. I don’t want to give away all the family secrets, but my Aunt Resa’s pea salad is one of my favorite things to eat on holidays. This was my first time attempting it, and it was the perfect acidic counter balance to all the sweet.

I’ll give you the recipe, but promise to give Aunt Resa the credit please.

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Mix one bag of frozen peas with one can of drained chickpeas.  Pour an entire bottle of italian dressing on top.  Let sit overnight, drain well before serving and toss with redskin spanish peanuts.  Enjoy! Its crunchy, tart, a little sweet from the peas. We’ve eaten the leftovers as a snack or even a light lunch.

While everyone was arriving I made sure we had a cheese plate out, nothing fancy, but an opportunity to use the monogram marble cheeseboard we received as a wedding gift.  Aren’t weddings fun?

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And of course, what would a New Years Day brunch be without a champagne bar?

 

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The Trader Joe’s Winter Wassail started a conversation about how I am a sucker for all things seasonal. If you put up a sign that says “Limited Edition” I will most likely buy it, for no other reason other than it is seasonal and/or limited. This is how I ended up with Pumpkin Spice Cheerios.  I don’t even eat regular cheerios. And yes, they were as bad as you would think.

This Winter Wassail though – incredible stuff.

Even if you’re not a songbird, Trader Joe’s Winter Wassail is so festive, you may find yourself spontaneously bursting into carols of the season with every sip. Our Winter Wassail was modeled after the spiced beverage enjoyed during 12th century Christmas celebrations. Years later, we’re still impressed by the drink’s ability to turn humbug feelings into holiday spirit. A sweetened blend of black currant, apple, and lemon juices produce a punchy punch. The cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, and orange peel punches it up even further. Enjoyed hot or cold, the flavor and aroma will instantly kindle feelings of holiday cheer. It’s a merry mixer with red wine, simmered on the stovetop and served steaming. Winter Wassail will be with us through the holidays. If merriment is your manifesto, you’ve met your match. Each 64 fluid ounce bottle is $3.99, until the last carol is sung (or we run out).

The ingredients are pretty straightforward:

INGREDIENTS: WATER, CANE SUGAR, APPLE JUICE CONCENTRATE, BLACKCURRANT JUICE CONCENTRATE, CITRIC ACID, NATURAL FLAVOR, SPICES (CINNAMON, CLOVES, NUTMEG, CARDAMOM, GINGER), LEMON JUICE CONCENTRATE, ORANGE PEEL.

Weirdly enough, that list turned a few people off – whom were pleasantly surprised by the actual juice once trying. Its like a holiday spiced cranberry juice.  More sweet and spiced than tart.

I love those champagne coup glasses more than anything. How can you not feel incredibly fancy while drinking from them? Its as if they require me to throw on some kitten heels while I slice up some snacks.

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Cheers to new drinks, to new family, to new traditions. Happy New Year!

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 Meal Prep

Yes for real, every Sunday I cook lunches for the week.  If you didn’t believe me the past few times I’ve done this post, hopefully  by now you’ll see that its a thing.

This past weekend, Mister came down to Westchester to celebrate (observe?) Passover with my family.  I brought Almond Cloud Cookies both nights (though my first batch with chocolate chips were better than the second batch without), but also made a really great fruit salad for the second night.

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I know that fruit salad is pretty basic, and non recipe worthy; but seriously this was good stuff that was surprisingly eaten up fairly quickly for dessert, even with a counter filled with chocolate.

  • Muddle together mint, fresh squeezed lemon juice, and honey
  • rinse and drain: raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries
  • slice the strawberries; put all berries in bowl
  • peel and slice kiwis (I used 5)
  • throw in a handful of stray grapes from your other fruitbowl
  • toss with the muddled mixture
  • refrigerate and until you’re ready to go to your aunt’s house, then let it sit on the counter for a few hours until dessert

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Mister and I went to Stew Leonard’s in Yonkers to get groceries for our Sunday meal prep.  It wasn’t nearly as crowded as we were expecting, and we got through fairly quickly.  While I love the experience of Stew Leonards, it can be hard to stock up on canned or packaged goods.  We took that into account when figuring out what we wanted to cook for the week.

While there, of course we were both hungry and decided to grab burgers there before heading back to Bedford.

I ogled the baby ducks while we ate our burgers (no bun for me in honor of Passover).  Sweet potato fries on the side that I surprisingly loved considering that I usually hate sweet potato fries.  They were dense, crunchy wedges of sweet potato that felt like a real food, instead of a weirdly soggy sweet potato french fry that I don’t always love.  Mister didn’t love them so much since they weren’t really fry like in taste or appearance I think.  While he went for the car, I went for the ice cream.

They were advertising a new soft serve, dairy free Gelato.  Made with coconut milk, this “ice cream” had a seriously icy almost sorbet like texture, with a heavy coconut kick.  It was okay, but definitely not worth getting again.

Once back at my Dad’s house,  I got to work on lunches while Mister got to work helping on an outside construction project.

I did time myself on this meal prep, since I keep hearing from people that they don’t have the time.  I did the following in about an hour, with the last portion just waiting for chicken to come out of the oven really.

  1. Get chicken in marinade
  2. Preheat the oven
  3. prep salmon and asparagus (foil lined cookie sheets, olive oil, salt, pepper)
  4. put those in the oven once it hits 350 degrees
  5. brown beef in a pan, drain.
  6. mix ground beef and marinara sauce (I used Stew Leonards refrigerated/prepared sauce) in a bowl and set aside
  7. lightly sautee veggie noodles in same pan from the beef
  8. Plate beef and veggies in containers
  9. Pull salmon and asparagus, plate in containers
  10. Push oven up to 400
  11. Bake chicken for 15 minutes at 400, then reduce to 350 for 20 minutes per pound.  Set a timer on your phone and go outside to enjoy the weather.

 

 

For Me:

  • 2 salmon and aspargus (to be topped with mango salsa after reheated)
  • 3 meat sauce with veggie noodles

For Mister:

  • 1 chicken with asparagus
  • enough baked chicken to either eat as is, or turn into chicken salad for the week.
  • leftovers from Passover

Breakfast will be fruit and greek yogurt (the chobani cups were .99 cents at Stew Leonards).  Dinner will be figured out as we go along, or we can eat the lunches if they get skipped during the day for say takeout with a coworker or a lunch meeting.  Sometimes just figuring out what to make can be the hard part, but Mister and I both agree its so nice to just grab a full meal in its own container from the fridge each day.  We feel better about not resorting to frozen meals, takeout, or just sandwiches every day.

 

Hudson Valley Restaurant Week: Harvest on the Hudson

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Having never been to this restaurant in Hastings on Hudson before, I was excited to see if the consistently rave reviews would carry over to their restaurant week offerings.  Upon entering, we were enveloped in the warmth of candles and low lighting.  Though the space itself is massive, with high ceilings and large windows overlooking the Hudson River, it felt warm and cozy with the combination of seating at various levels, warm colors, and low noise level.

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Our table was positioned at the corner of one of the higher floor levels.  We noticed that the seating all seems to be positioned to optimize river views.  This sounds great in theory, but once it got too dark to see out the enormous windows, the arrangement was awkward.  Regardless of that minor issue, the dining room felt like a warm embrace just as the sun was setting, comfortable and inviting.

For appetizers, I went with the Spring Asparagus Vinaigrette, while Mom chose the soup, which was a butternut squash bisque with pumpkin seeds.

The low lighting made taking pictures tricky, so bear with what dishes look like!  I wasn’t sure what to expect from the description, but my starter consisted of thick stalks of tender, chilled asparagus and a creamy dressing. According to the menu, this was soft egg tarragon dressing.  What I loved about this, was that not only was the asparagus cooked to a perfect state of crisp and tender, but that the entire plate was so perfectly seasoned.  The soup, was also balanced in a way that it was decadent while not being too heavy.

My salmon entree was just as excellent in terms of flavor, although execution could have been tweaked just a bit.  The skin, could have been just a bit more crisp, while the fish itself was more than a little over cooked.  I prefer salmon to have the almost silky fatiness when cooked just enough, while this was piece resembled the texture of dry, canned tuna.  This oversight aside, the brown butter combined with capers and golden raisins was perfection in a way that thoroughly compensated for the salmon.

025The service was so efficient, most likely based on the streamlined restaurant week menus, that we were offered the dessert menu just about the same time I finished my first glass of wine (the sauvignon blanc available by the glass, really fresh and crisp).

I had the tiramisu, while Mom went with the semifredo (in all honesty we had to google what the conceptual differences were between panna cotta and semifredo)  They were both the perfect sweetness to finish a really great menu.

We realized, once back in the car, that we had finished our dinner in just about an hour, though we didn’t feel rushed in the slightest.  We were satiated without being stuffed, which is one of my favorite benefits of restaurant week.  Though you are enjoying three courses, they are sized appropriately for the price and experience. I genuinely can say I look forward to trying this restaurant as a special date night in the future, and can’t wait to indulge in the full menu.