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].

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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.

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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.

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.

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

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.

 

From Family

Casserole dishes from Grandma.  Cookbooks from Mom. Serving platter from an Aunt.

My kitchen is literally a family collection in the best way; I love that every time I cook, bake, or entertain I can grab something that usually has provenance.

Even better, is when I can grab some family food from Mister’s parents that has been lovingly stashed in our freezer.  I won the in-law lottery with Mister’s family – they’re all genuinely nice fun people but more importantly – Mister’s parents own a catering company.  [Credit to Cline’s Catering located in Binghamton, NY] Not only do they put out the most incredible holiday meals, but we can usual plate up some event leftovers just about anytime we visit their house.

This means that almost every time we visit, we get blessed by the leftover gods and can refill our freezer stash.

After the stomach bug disaster of the past few days, I’m pretty sure Mister needed solid food even more than I did. I pulled some beef tips from the freezer and slowly reheated in the oven.  This is one of our favorite dishes that Mister’s dad makes – I know I couldn’t replicate it so I won’t even try.  And I’ll greedily accept leftovers anytime we’re in Binghamton.

I know those are both terrible pictures. But I’m telling you – those beef tips are pure gold. Perfectly tender to the point of falling apart, mixed with wine, peppers, mushrooms, talent and love.

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Oven roasted broccoli, a thick cut of pasta.

Dinner that finally made both of us feel like nourished humans.

So if you’re looking to plan a catered event in the Western New York Area, I can’t recommend the Cline’s enough – if you’re looking for a great life partner, try to find someone who’s parents are caterers.

At Least It Wasn’t The Flu

The past few days were a haze of not good grossness infecting my house.

Last Thursday some very evil and persistent stomach bug hit me pretty hard. I wasn’t comfortable sitting, standing, lying down, wining, or moving. It was pretty bad and I definitely didn’t handle it like an adult.

Thankfully, Mister was an excellent nurse-husband and my Mom even stopped by with a care package.

Tea, magazines, a great book, saltines, applesauce and fizzy gingerale helped me survive a few days before I was ready to reintroduce food.

Some boxed cake mix gingerbread cake was my saving grace for a few meals – combined with apple sauce it was just about all I could keep down.

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Sadly, I decided to make real food a little too soon and the result was pretty atrocious.

This macaroni and cheese attempt was the worst ever.  As in throw that away and don’t feed it to the dogs the worst.  It was gritty, and thick; oily and not in the least bit creamy or cheesy.  It definitely made things worse.  At least I took pictures?

to be honest, I’m not even sure what Mister has been eating the past few days. Cereal maybe? Its sort of a mystery if he even consumed any food at home at all. I think I saw a sandwich at some point.

The idea of soup made me queasy, and even toast was getting questionable. Alternating Ritz and Saltines made the cracker meal more tolerable – but even that could only last so long.

Here’s to hoping that Lysol wipes and a dozen loads of laundry later have fully evicted the stomach assailants.