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.

 

Lunch Break: Wegmans

So I didn’t grow up with Wegmans, and seem to be missing out in the fanatical enthusiasm for the store that most people participate in.  I went once to a location in Syracuse, while in the area for a work conference, and was less than impressed.  It was slightly confusing, seemed expensive, and the aisles were narrow.

While reporting my feedback to Mister after this visit (which was about two years ago), I was told that the particular location wasn’t the best representation of the supermarkets as a whole, and that I wasn’t really shopping for groceries so my opinion shouldn’t be fully formed.

This morning, between work appointments in New Jersey, I happened to notice a Wegmans just across the road and felt it was time to give the store another chance.

Okay, I’ll admit I kind of understand it now.060.JPG

After living in Albany for about ten years, I was totally on the supermarket fanatic bandwagon.  People up there love their supermarkets.  Trader Joes for prepared foods and snacks, Hannaford for meat, ShopRite or Price Chopper for sales.  Everyone has their favorites, their reasons, their experiences.  But we didn’t have a Wegmans, so it became the magical unicorn of folktales (just like Trader Joes was before opening in the area).  Having since relocated to Westchester, I realized that not everyone is into supermarkets in the same way.  Its fascinating that getting excited about where you buy your food is regional in such a way, but maybe that’s because the supermarkets of northern and western NY are just that much better.

Anyway, back on to my visit to Wegmans today.

For $30 I got: 2 bottles of storebrand seltzer, 1 bottle of storebrand pineapple flavored water, 1 prepared lunch from the cafe area, 1 container of mixed berries, 1 family sized bag of Snyders pretzels, 2 lemon squares from the bakery, 2 protein bars, 1 chia/fruit snack pack thing.  I’m pretty happy with the price and quality of what I got, but the true test was lunch.

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I packed everything up in the cooler bag I keep in my trunk (doesn’t everyone do this?), drove an hour back to the office, and then microwaved the prepared lunch about 2 hours later (it was refrigerated in the meantime).

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$7.00  / 580 calories.

The grilled chicken wasn’t dry (even after the microwave), the kale was super light and not soggy or over cooked, and the grilled veggies had some crunch.  There was so much flavor, and the sauce that was packaged separately was genius; I love that it wasn’t left to get all lumpy or soggy, but instead stored in its own little container.

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okay, so maybe I finally get why people like Wegmans.  It was a pretty pleasant experience and their prepared foods are definitely on point.

 

 

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.

Coals, Bronxville

Having seen a few posts for the new pizza restaurant Coals, I was excited to give it a try. Specializing in grilled pizza with fresh toppings, I was expecting a lot of flavor to follow up on the hype.

Mom (my local dinner date of choice) and I stopped in around 6pm on Friday night.  Both the bar area and the restaurant were crowded, with a promised wait of about 10- 15 minutes.  The beer offerings were atypical, and I was excited to try something while we waited.  I asked the waitress for a lighter beer both in flavor and APV, but I can tell I confused her in that she thought I meant low- calorie.  For future reference, is there a better way to phrase this?

I ended up with a pilsner; unfortunately the combination of a loud bar and confused waitress, I’m not sure what the beer actually was to give more information.  It was pretty unremarkable, so you’re not missing too much.

The 10-15 minute wait was definitely an underestimation, though I didn’t keep track of time, we didn’t start eating until after 7. 008.JPG We shared the arugula salad: it was really good, and I was so hungry that I didn’t get a good picture of the full dish! Arugula, grilled pears, walnuts, grana padano, and sherry vinaigrette, $9.00.  My only complaint with the salad, is that I wish it had more of the stuff; you had to sort of hunt for anything other than the dressed arugula (as evident by the plates above!)

Although they are marketed as individual pizzas, we weren’t really sure how big they were; we decided to share the “Pure Bliss” instead of over ordering.  Covered with fresh mozzarella, ricotta, tomato, basil pesto, and pecorino ($16.00), we were sold.  The menu is a little confusing for pizza though, with about 9 options, only one or two seem to have radically different topping than the other.  The rest seem to have the same handful of toppings in a different order, or omitting one or two in comparison to the other options.  Nothing really jumped out as a “must-have” or unique offering.

010.JPGBy the time our pizza hit the table, I was two beers down and very hungry.  It looked great, although a lot thinner than either of us was really anticipating. We didn’t let that quell our excitement as we dug in.  While caught up in conversation, we munched away.  A few pieces in, we both commented on how soggy and limp the pizza was, surprised at the result of grilling.

Since neither of us had this style of pizza before, or had visited this restaurant previously, we didn’t really know if this was their specialty or the failure of a busy kitchen.  I decided to consult one of the waitresses that had been helping us (sidenote: there were a ton of staff, but no consistency in who was helping which table.  personally, I think this contributed to slow table turnovers).

The waitress took a look at our floppy bites of pizza and confirmed our suspicions, the pizza wasn’t cooked enough and had gotten even more soggy with the topping soaking in to the crust. She was great about getting a new pizza to our table within minutes, profusely apologizing and letting us snack on the edges of the first one while we waited.

The second one was much crispier, and the flavor was on point.  I’m just not sold on this style of pizza as a meal.  I would think that a family would near half a dozen of these just to feel somewhat satiated; more like a snack or appetizer than main course.

The crust was so thin, without any beloved chewiness or bubbles, that it seemed nearly identical to the free pizzas given out with every drink purchase at the City Beer Hall in Albany.  Those are great for what they are; free pizzas.  I’m not super sold on Coal’s pizza as a meal, but rather a great option to have with a beer while catching up with a friend.

 

Meatball Meatball Meatball

I’m a big fan of meatballs.  When I was introduced to the world of home made meatballs my love only deepened.

The problem in our house has always been, however, that Mister prefers softy and bready, and I prefer a nice crunchy exterior.  I think that’s why we’re always experimenting with different recipes trying to find the perfect compromise.

119 I’m very pleased to announce that we found that perfect compromise.  We both loved the flavor (lots of sausage was a plus for me) and the texture (crockpot gave them that softness Mister prefers).  This is definitely looking like a long-term recipe relationship, which is why I’m posting it here to be saved forever.

I’m always an advocate of making your own sauce, but let be real; if I’m using the crockpot I’m sure as heck not making a real pot dirty.  I’m all about easy clean-up.

I had gifted some of this local sauce (available at Hannaford) during the holidays, so I wanted to try some for ourselves.  (that is probably horrible gifting etiquette, I’m sorry to everyone who has ever received an untested gift from me)

The ingredients were honest, and the taste was spot on.  The sausage, meaty, cheesy goodness smothered in this bright tomato flavor was so good.   Of course we added to the gluttony by toasting up some ciabatta from Sam’s Club (we were there for other things, I just happen to like buying bread in bulk), covering with meatballs, Parmesan and mozzarella and broiling.  Then adding more sauce.

128.JPGI wish the computer had taste-o-vision….for me just as much as for you right now.

Weekend of Little Things

This past weekend was all about appreciating a few days of little blessings, bonuses, and benefits.

  1. We found an incredibly soft blanket at Sam’s Club that I couldn’t stop raving over like a total lunatic.  Mister wasn’t as enthusiastic, but hey, we can’t all be in the blanket enthusiast club.                                         076
  2. The weather was so warm and sunny on Sunday that we had a really pleasant walk at the golf course, and had to actually take off some layers towards the end.  This is not something we usually experience for January.091
  3. We had two very tired, complacent bulldogs after said walk whom immensely enjoyed the previously described new blanket.

     

    4. Found a new snack from Trader Joes: Sour Gummie Ts & Js with no artificial flavors or colors.

    5. Tried out the Flight Fitness class at Flight Trampoline Park in Colonie AND got to spend time with a friend.084